Neo-Prohibitionist absurdity in Maine

Kid buys lemonade. Kid notices that the label says there are trace amounts of alcohol in the lemonade. Kid tells his school. All hell breaks loose:

Call it a culture clash, trans-Atlantic style. The Brits think the Americans are puritanical and somewhat batty. The Americans find the Brits morally lax and too willing to bend the rules. It all started at a high school in Maine when a student consumed half a bottle of Fentimans Victorian Lemonade, then looked at the label and discovered it contained small amounts of alcohol, listed as less than 0.5 percent. By contrast, a typical American beer usually contains about 5 percent alcohol.

Not wanting to get in trouble, he showed it to school administrators, who called police. Police referred the matter to state officials to determine whether the zesty beverage could be sold to minors. Anti-alcohol groups got involved, sending out warnings about the potential perils of the highbrow brew.

On Thursday, the Maine attorney general’s office said it has determined that, in Maine, at least, people have to be 21 to buy the product.

The trace amounts of alcohol are left over from the brewing process. At that level they’re essentially harmless; according to Fentiman’s, one would have to drink 28 bottles of lemonade to get the same amount of alcohol found in a typical pint of beer. Yet for a prohibitionist, the dose of a drug doesn’t matter. Alcohol is an evil substance that must be kept out of the hands of children and they’ll go to absurd lengths to justify the ban on sales:

“It wasn’t so much that we were trying to give Fentimans a black eye,” he said. “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.”

He pointed out that nonalcoholic beers with similar residual alcohol content cannot be dispensed to minors under Maine law.

The police chief is also concerned because a Google search of Victorian lemonade turned up recipes calling for it to be made with gin. He fears young people will read those recipes and add gin to their Fentimans.

You know what else you can make mixed drinks with? Milk. Orange juice. Coca-Cola. Anything that’s liquid and tastes good, really. But we mustn’t alert minors to these possibilities until they turn 21.

Anyway, Fentiman’s makes an excellent line of products that’s worth checking out. I’m a huge fan of their sodas — with or without alcohol added — and I’m glad they’re treating this panic with the derision it deserves. Hopefully they’ll get some good publicity out of it and end up boosting their sales.

Don’t even think about clicking if you’re under 21, but here’s a tasty cocktail using Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola.


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