Should Grocers Sell Liquor (Distilled Spirits)? It’s a Food.

Should grocers sell liquor (spirits)? French grocery stores sell beer, wine and spirits. Of course, that’s a logical place to purchase these products. Wine, beer and spirits are all foods. Both custom and food law in the Western World recognize them as foods. So it’s natural to sell them along with other foods, both in grocery stores and restaurants.1

grocers sell liquor But the US has a long temperance tradition. It stigmatizes alcohol and tries to deny their status as foods.

As long ago as the 1800s, temperance writers insisted that alcohol was not a food. Instead, they described it as a poison. And that was dangerous to life and health.2

That long tradition continues to this day. Especially among temperance oriented groups. For example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) insists that alcohol is not a food.3

Temperance oriented group deny that alcohol beverages foods. Indeed, they call them toxins. Thus, they can more easily restrict their sale.

So French thinking on the subject is correct. Alcohol is culturally and legally food. So they should be sold in both grocery stores and restaurants.


1. grocers sell liquorThe Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, ch. II, Sec. 201 (321) (f) defines food. “(1) articles used for food or drink, (2) chewing gum, and (3) articles used for components of any such article.” The EU Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 also defines food. It is “any substance or product… intended to be, or reasonably expected to be ingested by humans.” Thus “Food includes drink, chewing gum and any substance… intentionally incorporated into the food.” According to the U.K. Food Safety Act 1990, alcohol is a food.

2. For example, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) wrote no. “Alcohol is not a food or drink.” But the Committee of Fifty was a group of scientists. They analyzed the scientific evidence. They concluded that alcohol is food. It is processed by the body as food. (Billings, J., et al.  Aspects of the Liquor Problem. Boston: Houghton, 1903. The WCTU also insisted that “Medical writers, without exception, class alcohol as a poison.” But the scientists of the Committee of Fifty wrote this was yet another false statement.

3. CSPI agrees with the WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) that alcohol is not a food. The ASL is now the American Council on Alcohol Problems. And the WTCU still exists.

    • Should grocers sell liquor? You now know why or why not.