Wisconsin may repeal margarine ban

Who even knew that Wisconsin has a law making it illegal for restaurants to serve margarine?

The 44-year-old law was intended to protect the state's famous dairy industry, and now some legislators are looking to repeal it, led by Republican state Rep. Dale Kooyenga, a 32-year-old Brookfield accountant who learned about the law by Googling "'stupid Wisconsin laws," the Chicago Tribune reports. Kooyenga says the law is anti-free-market and thinks that allowing state institutions to switch to margarine could save money.

The thing is, the law has a major loophole: Restaurants can serve margarine as long as they also offer butter. For that reason, and the notion that Wisconsin diners generally prefer butter, even the director of government relations for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association calls it a nonissue.

Interestingly, legislators attempted to repeal the state's full-out margarine ban back in 1965, but pro-butter rural Republicans stopped the process. One margarine-ban backer, Republican Sen. Gordon Roseleip, agreed to take a blind taste test, but the sample he said he preferred turned out to be margarine. Oops. (After Roseleip's death, family members admitted they'd been crossing the border to buy margarine to feed to him out of concern for his health.)

In 1967, the full ban was repealed, but the restaurant restriction and the requirement that all students, patients, and inmates at state institutions are served butter passed. Apparently violation complaints are limited--only one or two usually come to the state ag department each year--and the enforcement is mostly limited to warning letters, though the law states that an offense could be punishable by up to three months in jail!

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