A traditional British lemonade drink, Fentimans Victorian Lemonade, enjoyed in Britain for more than 100 years, has sparked uproar in the US after a teenager in Maine had the drink confiscated from him as he is under the legal age of alcohol consumption - despite the fact that the beverage contains just 0.5% alcohol. Many drinks in Britain - such as shandy - have the same, and sometimes a slightly higher, alcohol content that are legally allowed to be bought and consumed by people of any age including children.
After the kid had his drink confisctated, a body called the Aroostock Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and even the Attorney General got involved!
Maine, like many states in that part of the US, was founded by humourless, fun-hating English Puritans, who moved to Britain's colonies in North America in the 17th Century because Britain wasn't strict enough (those people would have had a shock during Britain's Gin Craze of the 18th Century).
The alcohol drinking age in the US is 21, in Canada it is 19 and in Britain is 18.
Fentimans is based in Hexham, Northumberland. Thomas Fentiman, a West Yorkshire iron worker, began the business in 1905 when he was given a recipe in repayment of a loan.
Traditional British lemonade drink sparks row in U.S. over trace alcohol content
By Mail Foreign Service
28th October 2009
Traditional: Fentimans Victorian Lemonade has sparked a row in the U.S. as it contains 0.5 per cent alcohol
A traditional lemonade which British drinkers have enjoyed for more than a century caused a row when an American teenager pointed out it contains 0.5 per cent alcohol.
The Fentimans range of botanically brewed soft drinks has undergone a sales revival and their natural ingredients and traditional-style bottles have proved a hit with consumers.
But the firm, based in Hexham, Northumberland, has been caught up in an under-age booze row in the US after a teenager in Maine confessed to his school principal the Victorian Lemonade he opened contained alcohol.
The offending drink - only half consumed - was taken away from the pupil and the police, a body called the Aroostock Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and even the Attorney General in the state where English Puritans settled, got involved.
Protesters were concerned about the drink's alcohol content - albeit low - and the traditional bottles, which they claimed made the brand look like 'imitation liquor'.
They said the brew should not be bought by under-21s.
But the makers said the 0.5 per cent alcohol level meant the botanical beverage qualified as a soft drink.
In fact, the average alcohol level was more like 0.3 per cent, a spokesman said.
A drinker would have to drink 28 bottles of the 275ml pop to consume the same amount of alcohol as a pint of beer, the firm said.
Many common products, such as orange juice, mouthwash and chewing gum contain trace levels of alcohol.
The row was picked up by internet bloggers after it featured in the US media.
Ironically, publicity from the fall-out has led to a sales surge across 30 states, the firm said.
Thomas Fentiman, a West Yorkshire iron worker, began the business in 1905 when he was given a recipe in repayment of a loan.
It started as a door-to-door ginger beer business, but fell into trouble in the mid 1960s when supermarkets took over.
The brand, with its Alsatian-themed labels inspired by Thomas Fentiman's prized pet Fearless, was revived by the founder's great-grandson Eldon Robson in 1988. He prides his product in only using herbs, natural flavours and slow fermentation.
The furore over the lemonade did not concern Mr Robson, who said: 'I think it's quite amusing, really.
'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.
'However, underage drinking is a serious matter and this issue does need to be clarified.
'In the past 25 years, we have only had a handful of polite inquiries about whether our drinks are suitable for children and all of these people have been quite satisfied when we explain that they are legally classified as soft drinks - and that I actively encourage my own children to drink Fentimans.
'Our drinks do not look alcoholic, just quite distinctive and traditional, so the whole 'imitation liquor' argument seems patently ridiculous.
'I am pleased to see that the public in the States have been vociferous in their online comments, pointing out that everyday items like mouthwash, orange juice and even chewing gum contain trace alcohol.
'As one commentator suggested, it would mean drinking literally gallons of any of our drinks to gain the same effect as half a pint of beer.'