Trade warning over drug wipes

By Dave Hunter

Claims some cleaning liquids produce ‘false positive’

OPERATORS have been warned to pay close attention to the chemicals used to clean their premises, after claims one product was found to produce a ‘false positive’ effect on police drug wipes.
It is claimed that the Blu-Safe product turned the wipes, used to detect the presence of cocaine, blue – the same effect produced by contact with the drug.
The claim was made by the operators of Glasgow bar the Scotch & Rye after a recent police inspection of the pub’s toilets.
The venue is trading under appeal after the licence was revoked following a number of alleged incidents under the previous management.
Following the recent police test the current proprietors, partners Paul Nelson and Paul McGowan, tested every cleaning liquid used in the premises.
They claimed that, in several tests, Blu-Safe produced a false positive effect on the wipes.
“It looked as though somebody had come in with a binbag full of cocaine and tossed it all over the pub,” said Paul Nelson. “Obviously that didn’t happen, so we did our investigation and it turns out it was one of the cleaning products.”
Stuart Allison, director of Glasgow-based Blu Group, supplier of Blu-Safe, told SLTN that Blu-Safe is normally used to sanitise tables after customers have eaten, and the company has ensured its customers are now using another of its products, Freshline, for toilets.
He said the reaction with the drug wipes is believed to be caused by an active ingredient – benzyl-C8-18-alkyldimethyl, chlorides – CAS No: 63449-41-2 – which he said is present in Blu-Safe but not in Freshline.
Lawyer Joanna Millar of Millar Campbell, who represents Nelson and McGowan, said the false positive effect could be a “massive issue” for the trade.
“I do think this is a problem,” said Millar. “If police are doing a wipe on a small area, where there’s no presence of powder, you could get a false positive.
“If there had been any other issues you may end up with a review before the board.”
And she warned that the Blu-Safe product may not be the only cleaning liquid to produce a similar effect.
“It’s important to identify the chemical [that causes the reaction], and if the trade can be made aware of it, they can go back to their own providers and say ‘this chemical provides a false positive, can we make sure we don’t have that in any of the products we’re using’,” she said.
Sergeant David Macdonald of Police Scotland’s licensing policy unit confirmed the police are aware that “certain cleaning products may provide a ‘false’ indication that controlled drugs such as cocaine are present”.
“However, there is a distinct and clear difference between the results obtained from finding trace elements of a class A controlled drug such as cocaine and the widespread use of a cleaning product that gives substantial result similar to dipping the testing swabs in a significant amount of cocaine,” he said.