Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website   Read more about this blog.
Posted: October 20th, 2011
Margarine is banned in Wisconsin restaurants. Seriously?


Put this under the heading, “Things I did not know.” Most likely because I have never been to Wisconsin. Apparently there has been a long standing law that colored margarine cannot be sold in restaurants, unless specifically requested by a customer. or served in prisons unless a prisoner has a specific health issue or is vegan. Restaurants have figured out how to circumvent the law, but prisoners have only one option–butter. I doubt it’s the biggest issue for them.

Lest you think this is some new law, read on. It actually stems back to the turn of the previous century (Margarine Act of 1883) when the sale and distribution of colored margarine was prohibited in the majority of the states, thanks to some successful lobbying by the dairy industry. Wisconsin was the last state to repeal the sale of colored margarine and that was in 1967. Figures since Wisconsin has been known as America’s Dairyland.

There is an effort to repeal the remaining antiquated law, but of course, it’s meeting with resistance from dairy lobbyists. Like most political footballs, the issue gets reduced to simply name-calling, with those who support the repeal being called dairy haters.

I do recall my grandmother telling me that margarine came with a packet of yellow powder to mix into the hydrogenated vegetable oil mixture to make it appear more palatable, since margarine is actually white. Even though I grew up eating margarine, and drinking powdered milk, I don’t care for it at all. But that’s personal preference. That said, I think it’s outrageous that government can dictate whether or not I have the choice to eat it when and if I choose to visit Wisconsin or if for some reason I am imprisoned there.

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