After Quebec teen's death, convenience store pulls sugary high-alcohol drink
Amid reports that alcohol could have been a factor in the death of a 14-year-old girl in Quebec, convenience store chain Couche-Tard has decided to pull the strong alcoholic drink “FCKD UP” from its shelves.
“Although sale of the beverage is 100% legal, acting responsibly is a daily practice at Couche-Tard and this is why the decision was made today,” the company, which is Quebec’s largest convenience store chain, said in a statement released late Friday.
Athena Gervais, 14, was discovered dead in a stream behind her school in Laval, Que. on Thursday, three days after she was reported missing. According to students interviewed by the French-language news outlet La Presse, Gervais had allegedly been drinking stolen cans of “FCKD UP” with friends during their lunch break Monday.
When the others returned to class, Gervais, who was visibly intoxicated, remained outside, La Presse reported.
"We're going to find out what caused the death and if she had alcohol (in her blood)," Laval police spokesperson Stephanie Beshara previously told CTV Montreal. “It's with the autopsy and toxicology test that we will find out.”
Results are expected in the coming days, Beshara added.
Available across Quebec, “FCKD UP” is a strong, sugary beverage sold in a variety of fruit flavours in flashy 568-millilitre cans. Each has an alcohol content of 11.9 per cent and also contains the stimulant guarana, a plant whose seeds contain roughly double the amount of caffeine as coffee beans.
The drink can be sold in Quebec’s convenience and grocery stores because it has an alcohol content just under 12 per cent, the provincial limit.
“One can is the equivalent of four scotch-whisky glasses, or four vodka shots, or four glasses of wine or four cans of beer,” Hubert Sacy, the executive director of Montreal-based alcohol education not-for-profit Éduc'alcool, told CTV News.
“The colours of the cans are extremely bright: yellow, red, green, purple, etc. The title is absolutely not targeting old age -- I can tell you that.”
The Geloso Group, the company that makes the drink, has expressed condolences to the teen’s family.
The potent combination of caffeine, sugar, a high alcohol content and easy access has public health officials concerned.
“I don’t think they measure how dangerous it can be for them,” Emilie Dansereau-Trahan of the Quebec Association for Public Health said on Saturday, referring to young consumers. “I think it's our responsibility, the government's responsibility, to take these drinks out of the market.”
The Geloso Group said that it is now rethinking its marketing strategy and also considering stopping selling “FCKD UP” altogether.
With files from CTV Montreal’s Kelly Greig