Bizarre Food Laws You May be Breaking
How much bacteria is allowed in a scoop of ice cream? Which days of the week can you legally sell alcohol? Can you use your spare dynamite to fish? Curious legal oddities abound in the US. These weird and wacky state food laws are so strangely specific and nonsensical that you won't believe they're still active and official.
1. Massachusetts: Making, selling, or distributing arsenic laced candy or toys will result in a fine of between $50 to $100 dollars.
It's hard to tell what's more distressing about this law: that arsenic was laced into candy and toys specifically, or that the punishment for potentially poisoning someone is "not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars."
2. California: Imitation ice cream can't contain over 75,000 bacteria per gram.
Did there used to be a lot of imitation ice cream (frozen desserts that look like ice cream, but lack milk or cream) with more than 75,000 bacteria per gram? How do ice cream shops measure that anyway?
3. Indiana: It is illegal to fish with dynamite.
This is the very first item on a list of "Things you can't do" in the fishing regulations from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Just imagine the kinds of questions that department probably received. "Can I throw explosives into the lake? I want to kill everything in the lake for lunch. Oh? But when has dynamite ever harmed anything!?"
4. Louisiana: Jambalaya prepared in "the traditional manner" is not subject to typical sanitation regulations.
"The traditional manner" refers to a jambalaya cooked outside either in a public space or for a public event over a wood fire using iron pots. Cooking in this manner has a long cultural history in Louisiana, and this importance is reflected in the law.
5. New York: Hamburger must be ground in plain sight and cannot contain over 30% fat, or you could face 30 days in jail.
"Hey buddy. Hands on the table where I can see them grinding my hamburger meat." Sometimes fat is added to ground beef, but anything over 30% and your butcher could go to jail.
6. North Dakota: Food sellers cannot be held liable for excessive weight gain.
Following several lawsuits against various fast food chains such as McDonalds, this law has recently been explored both nationally and in individual states. In North Dakota at least, it's now illegal for people to sue food vendors over their weight gain.
7. Minnesota (and 13 other states): It is illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays.
This law, leftover from the Prohibition era in the 1930's, is still active in Minnesota today. Some politicians are still interested in repealing it, but currently, if you want to drink on Sundays, you better buy your alcohol in advance.
8. Wisconsin: Cheddar cheese must be "highly pleasing."
In order to be considered premium grade grade AA Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese, the grain must be "fine, highly pleasing, and free from undesirable flavors and odors." Is there an official cheese taster that needs to be pleased? Because that sounds like a pretty sweet gig.
9. New York: Milk cannot contain pus, blood, manure, or vermin.
This one is a little baffling. It seems obvious that this should be illegal doesn't it? The fact that it needed to be said is a little concerning. What was going on before?
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Photo credits (top to bottom): Minty Fresh Flavor, Gimme Some Oven, Globe Trotter Diaries, Pixie, Virtual Ern, and Dan Mogford