DRINKERS have been warned to beware of cheap vodka discovered on sale at off-licence and general dealers outlets.

Bottles of Imperial Valkonov vodka have been found to contain excessive levels of methanol.

Symptoms, which appear several hours after drinking the vodka, include abdominal pain, drowsiness and dizziness, as well as blurred vision, leading to blindness.

Bottles believed to pose the health risk are marked: "Distributed for KMG57, Bodana Khmelnitskogo Str 236039 Kalingrad Russia for EEC."

Sunderland City Council environmental health officer Norma Johnston said: "Anyone who has unwittingly drunk this contaminated vodka should seek medical attention immediately.

"The side-effects are extremely dangerous."

Food safety manager Paul Stenson, of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: "We have begun contacting all our retailers selling alcohol and are asking them to take the brand off the shelves."

Anyone who sees the vodka on sale is asked to call their local council's health officer