A MAJOR crackdown on the party drug mephedrone has taken place in Chester as police raided four city centre stores.

Cheshire West and Chester Trading Standards officers and Police raided a city centre shop yesterday morning and removed a large quantity of the still legal designer drug, commonly known as “meow meow”or M-Cat.

Officials said that the raid at Dr Hermans in Eastgate Row, was one of four targeted in Chester, and that a total of 148 units of mephedrone had been removed from the store.

No mephedrone was found at the other three locations.

The raids took place following a letter from Home Secretary Alan Johnson to all local authority chief executives pointing out the responsibility of Trading Standards officers for enforcing offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations.

Mr Johnson stated that mephedrone is currently labelled for sale as a plant food or bath salt to bypass restrictions on products for human consumption.

But the Home Secretary has been advised by the chairman of the Advisory Council on the misuse of drugs that mephedrone has “no utility as either a plant food or bath salt”.

He added: “I would ask you to urgently consider with your Trading Standards officers what enforcement steps you can take to ensure mephedrone is not advertised in this way in advance of the drug being controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.”

The proprietors of Dr Hermans have been invited to a “formal interview” by city officials and police.

Investigations into the substance being sold by online retailers in quantities ranging from £13 for one gram to £130 for 15 grammes, has also been launched.

As part of a Leader investigation into the party drug, which is believed to have similar effects on the body as that of cocaine and ecstasy, a father, who asked not to be named, has spoken about his son’s horrifying “addiction” to the substance.

He warned that the drug caused his son to dramatically lose weight as well as causing severe mood swings and irregular sleeping patterns.

The drug has been blamed for the recent deaths of 18-year-old Louis Wainwright, and Nick Smith, 19, from Scunthorpe.

Council chiefs and school headteachers have added the drug to their drug awareness lists after a report of the substance being used in a school in and around Chester.

Cllr Lynn Riley, executive member for area and community services, said: “The dangers of mephedrone or ‘meow meow’ have been well publicised nationally.

"Indeed, the drug is believed to have been responsible for several deaths.

"I applaud the speedy action of our Trading Standards officers and the police in removing that unacceptable risk”.