It’s easy to take law and order for granted.
For all the right wing wittering about the ills of the “Nanny State”, most people can by and large agree that rules and regulation do a pretty good job of keeping us safe. This is true for everything, including food.
However, while most laws seem to be fairly sensible, legislators don’t get it right all the time. For every perfectly reasonable limit on the amount of pesticide allowed in your salad, there are a host of strange subclauses that do more than raise a few eyebrows. From local and national governments around the world, here are a few of the weirdest food laws of all time.
1. Massachusettsan Sandwiches
Funerals are always a sensitive time. With crying relatives and inevitable family flare ups, if ever there was an occasion for justifiable comfort eating, a wake is surely it. Not in Massachusetts. Thanks to an unspecified but presumably unpleasant historic sandwich experience, funeral goers are today only permitted to eat a maximum of three sandwiches at a wake in the state.
2. Danish Water
As any discerning restaurant goer knows, water can be one of a number of ways that eateries can con you out of a few extra quid. Anyone who resents being charged for their glass should therefore head immediately to Denmark, where it is illegal for any restaurant to charge a guest for water, as long as it doesn’t have a slice of lemon in it.
3. Californian Oranges
Famed for their flavour and vibrant colour, oranges are rightly a source of stately pride for Californians. Disregarding how strongly residents may feel about their produce, however, woe betide anyone who tries to eat an orange in the bath. This practise has been illegal in the state since 1920, though this law is presumably quite tricky to enforce.
4. Singaporean Gum
No one likes to see a sidewalk covered with a gooey spattering of old chewing gum. However much we’d like to see the perpetrators on the receiving end of a good telling off, the laws in Singapore may go a little too far. Here, it is illegal to sell gum without a license, and anyone caught chewing without a prescription can face a £2000 fine.
5. Tennesseean Fish
When we think of Tennessee, we think of country music, spicy fried chicken and Dolly Parton working nine to five. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we don’t tend to think of lassoing fish. This is unfortunate, as this weirdly specific hunting practise has actually been illegal for decades. As an interesting side note, in Idaho it is also illegal to catch fish from a camel.
6. British Beer
There are few institutions more famed than the great British pub. As the first port of call for any ill-planned night out, every Friday and Saturday night sees pubs up and down the country become the scene for all manner of drunken debauchery. In bad news for the entire British population, however, it has actually been illegal to get drunk in a pub since the 1820s. Though the law is technically still active, the likelihood of it ever being enforced seems slim at best.
7. Scottish Salmon
In a nation not renowned for the diversity of its cooking, Scottish salmon is rightly viewed with great affection. As a result, locals are fiercely protective over their orange national treasure, and lawmakers have sought to defend salmon from every conceivable angle of attack. This led to the Scottish Salmon Act of 1986, which among other things made it “illegal to handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances”. There is no indication as to what these circumstances might be.
When it comes to our food, people are justifiably more sensitive than they might otherwise be. After all, no one wants to be on the receiving end of a bout of food poisoning or a chemically induced coma. However, as these rules show, there are times when caution seems to get the better of us.