Quebec wants tighter control on sale of high-alcohol, malt-based drinks


Quebec is moving to ban the sale of most beverages containing more than seven per cent alcohol from anywhere other than the provincial liquor stores, according to Radio-Canada’s sources.


The decision comes two weeks after Athena Gervais, 14, died after she reportedly consumed an 11.9 per cent alcohol energy drink called FCKD UP on her school lunch break.

While police are still awaiting a toxicology report to determine if Gervais had been drinking, the teen’s death has brought such drinks under renewed scrutiny. The company that produces FCKD UP has since halted production, but other similar beverages are still on the market. 

Restricting availability

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said amendments to the province’s liquor and gaming law are already in the works and restrictions that forbid the sale of most strong alcoholic beverage at dépanneurs and grocery stores could be added.

Bill 170 will “modernize” the province’s liquor permit regulations and give the Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux more power to ensure the law is being followed, Coiteux said.

“I think the public in general is waiting for legislators to do something about this, and with good reason. So, we will do it,” he said. 

Currently, dépanneurs and grocery stores are permitted to sell malt-based beverages and some wines, while the sale of all other alcohol is limited to Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) outlets.

The safety surrounding the combination of ingredients in the high-sugar, high-alcohol beverages has also been called into question in the wake of the teen’s death.

In Canada, it’s illegal to mix alcohol and caffeine in a premixed beverage. However, there’s no prohibition on substances that contain caffeine, such as guarana, a prominently advertised ingredient in FCKD UP.

The Quebec government is also among a growing group of lawmakers and health professionals urging Health Canada, which has the final say which ingredients can be included in beverages, to regulate the drinks.