In Maine, a little alcohol is still alcohol

Houlton, 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)