In Maine, a little alcohol is still alcohol

Categories: Alcohol, News, Public Policy

Fentimans' web adHoulton, Maine has been making international headlines lately. And it’s not because of their ideal location for snowmobiling. Recently, a high school student brought attention to the fact that the Fentimans Lemonade he was drinking contained a small amount of alcohol, less than 0.05% according to the label. Fearing he would get in trouble at school (since underage drinking is illegal), he told school administrators. Those school administrators then alerted local police, who turned the issue over to state officials to determine whether or not the lemonade should be sold to minors.

Since then, the Maine attorney general’s office has declared that because of the small amount of alcohol, the lemonade cannot be sold to minors in Maine. The lemonade in question would be considered an “imitation liquor.” Not a surprising conclusion when you consider that in Maine any beverage containing a trace amount of alcohol (think O’Doul’s) can only be sold to adults 21 or older. (Under state law, “imitation liquor” means “any product containing less than one half of 1 percent alcohol by volume which seeks to imitate by appearance, taste and smell liquor or which is designed to carry the impression to the purchaser that the beverage has an alcohol content.”)

End of story, right? Not for Fentimans. Apparently, they think Maine is being a bit prudish. According to Fentimans’ managing director Eldon Robson, “Maine is, of course, where our puritanical forefathers went because Britain was not strict enough, and it has been said that Puritans are people who are always worried that someone, somewhere, might be having fun.”

Bottom line, Fentimans Lemonade is a beverage that contains a small amount of alcohol. Alcohol should not be in the beverages of minors. Period. Saying a small amount of alcohol is okay sends the message that it’s okay to drink alcohol at a young age.

Fentimans own website has an ad on its home page (see above) with a headline that reads “another year on the wagon” with a tagline that touts their “botanically brewed beverages” as the “Original Adult Soft Drink.”

Says Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin, “It wasn’t so much that we were trying to give Fentimans a black eye. We just want to make parents aware it contains alcohol. I’ve never had it; it’s probably very good, but their Web site says it can be used for mixed drinks.”

Seems pretty straight forward to us. What do you think?

Read More
Tiny bit of alcohol brews up a real brouhaha (Portland Press Herald)
Brewed lemonade stirs up controversy (Bangor Daily News)

15 thoughts on “In Maine, a little alcohol is still alcohol

  1. As I stated in the BDN today, kudos to Claire Desrosiers and MAPSA for maintaining their stance on the Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade issue and protecting Maine’s youth. It is unfortunate that the bigger picture is being missed by the people who are responding to the blogs in the newspapers. While I have a great relationship with the press, I was disappointed with the way the issue was portrayed in an article published in the PPH today. Unfortunately, my quotes in the article were not entirely a correct representation of what was said. I need to remember to speak more slowly and to use single syllable words when responding to questions. But I have been an administrator long enough to know that you can never take this stuff personally and that we live in a fishbowl. I am grateful for the effort Jeff Austin put into this matte and for the AG’s ruling. ASAP and MAPSA must continue to maintain the course and look for other products similar to Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade that would also fall under the designation of being an “Imitation Liquor”. Despite how this is being portrayed in the media, it isn’t a trivial matter and I totally support ASAP and MAPSA in this endeavor. Promoting healthy lifestyles and deterring our youth from harmful substances can never be a bad thing. The public should be applauding your work. I know I do.

  2. Great job by our friends in Aroostook County. Kudos to our Attorney General. For the English who find our response ‘prudish’: forgive us for not wanting our youth binge drinking at the rate they do in England and most other European countries.

  3. Pretty clear what needed to be done. Kids have enough mixed messages. Congrats to the student who spoke up. Keep up the good work “blogmistress” !!

  4. Kudos Clare! Keep up the good work – my helicopter mom! Meme, si je ne suis pas d’accord. 🙂

  5. What a load of nonsense. There is a serious issue here, but this is an absolute joke of a decision – this is clearly a soft drink.

  6. Home living sober is a fine start for your recovery. Get help before it is too late.

    Affordable alcohol rehab is the way to go. Don’t be a slave to your addiction. Best of luck to all those in their recovery.

  7. This is a joke. 0.5% alcohol? You would have to drink 28 – yes 28 – of these to get any sort of buzz and I find it highly unlikely that anyone could, or would drink 28 of these to achieve that. Plus your average underage individual probably couldn’t afford to buy 28 of these. This is ridiculous. And the kid that reported it? I don’t know how he’s going to make it through life on his own. What a baby.

  8. There are other drinks that have trace amounts of alcohol (that may not even be listed on the label) did you start a “witch hunt” against those too?

    This is too ridiculous to be real. A whole town can’t be such hypochondriacs. The city sounds like it’s straight out of Southpark. Too funny.

  9. 7-Up also contains trace amounts of alcohol–more than Fentiman’s lemonade (which really has content closer to 0.3%, while 7-Up contains 0.5% alcohol). Why hasn’t Maine banned this product from being sold to kids? Because it isn’t served in a bottle? What a joke.

  10. It’s clear what needed to be done. The law is outdated and ridiculous, penalizing honesty in corporate labeling. Just another example of a the legal system in America failing. Very Sad.

  11. First people should not believe everything they see in the media and on television. Regardless of what the Colbert Report or any other media outlet indicated – soft drinks (7-Up etc) do not have alcohol.

    Second – Fentiman’s Lemonade was brought to the attention of the Maine Attorney General in order to gain clarification on how and to whom it should be sold. It is not a soft drink. Retailers in Maine can be held responsible for selling alcoholic drinks to minors; it was necessary to classify Fentiman’s as either a soft drink or imitation liquor so that retailers would know how and to whom to sell it.

    Third – People should be respectful in their posts to one another. Making hurtful comments about other people is inappropriate and shows a deep lack of respect for others.

  12. Actually all products produced by Dr Pepper Snapple Group—such as 7-UP, Dr. Pepper, A&W, Canada Dry, Clamato, Country Time, Crush, Diet Rite, Hawaiian Punch, Schweppes, Snapple, and Squirt—contain trace amounts of alcohol.
    ( )

    Furthermore, any beverage with sucrose or fructose—other soft drinks, fruit juices, etc.—will also have trace amounts of alcohol, since fermentation is impossible to completely prevent.

    The Canadian/British lemonade is just more forthright in their labeling than the American beverages.

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