Official seeks to remove law banning margarine

Friday, December 18, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:59 a.m. CST, Friday, December 18, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Think twice before you grab that margarine from the grocery store shelf. You're purchasing an illegal substance.

Because of several provisions passed starting in the late 1800s, the sale of certain types of imitation butter was banned from being sold in Missouri stores.

But anyone who has been to the grocery store this century knows this law has been all but ignored as tubs of Brummel & Brown, Fleischmann's and Country Crock glisten under fluorescent lights.

For the second year in a row, Rep. Sara Lampe, R-Springfield, has introduced a bill to repeal the previous legislation, which, Lampe said, is out of date and was written at a time when Missouri's dairy industry felt threatened by the substitute.

Lampe said inspiration for the bill came after she sent a letter to constituents asking what type of laws they wanted to see.

"Overwhelmingly, the response was, 'We have too many laws. We'd like to see you take some off the books,'" Lampe said.

Lampe said when she came across the butter law, she thought it had served its time and was ready to be removed.

"But it takes a law to remove a law," Lampe said.

The current law makes possible a fine of anywhere from $50 to $100 for anyone caught selling yellow margarine.

"We called the Department of Agriculture and asked if they'd enforced it anytime recently, and they said absolutely not," Lampe said. "Most people there didn't even know it was on the books."

Rick Johnson, the dairy manager of the Hy-Vee in Jefferson City, said two-thirds of their butter section is actually margarine, and nobody has raised any questions.

The margarine law was passed decades ago as an effort to protect the dairy industry from non-dairy competition. Although repeal of the law would seem to be noncontroversial, the issue made no progress in the House in the 2009 legislative session.

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Kip Westling December 19, 2009 | 12:53 p.m.

Enforce the law and balance the state budget. Rough math here $100 for each time the law was broken times millions of products sold = BILLIONS of dollars in revenue from Wal-Mart alone. Missouri could fully fund every needed program. Sadly the law would be removed very quickly.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 19, 2009 | 2:36 p.m.

Kip, this ridiculous law (almost on par with the ban of non-styrofoam on some rivers) should be repealed immediately, rather than used to harm retailers. Think people, how would such a fine get paid? By higher retail prices of course. Corporations don't pay taxes and fines, their customers do.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley December 19, 2009 | 3:09 p.m.

Well Kip, can the city also enforce every "blue law" against you too?

No jaywalking? No sex unless you are married.. And if you are married, careful about how you have sex... Don't tear off the manufacturer tag on your matresses.. If you smoke, don't tear the stamp on your pack of cigarettes.

Did you know that there are so many Federal Laws on the books that the Federal Government has actually admitted that they have lost track of all of the Federal Laws?

I mean, if we are going to enforce these senseless laws against big corporation, then we have to enforce them against the consumer too, right? I mean, you have to have an equal enforcement of the law, right? So, if we are going to save the economy by enforcing these laws and imposing fines, then you have to do your part too, right? So, we follow you around and cite you for every little thing you do that is on the books as a violation of the law, right? I mean if we are going to do that to Wal-Mart, why not do that to you too, right?


Speak Your Mind FREELY:

(Report Comment)
Kip Westling December 19, 2009 | 5:39 p.m.

Good thoughts! But the law could be easily enforced. An auditor could quickly search Wal-Mart records to find out how many fake butter products were sold in Missouri. Skip a legal step or two .... a court would fine WM. Appeal after Appeal the state would take the money. The state can do that.

Your unelected state employees do not have the right as to which laws to enforce. They are under oath to enforce and defend the laws of the Missouri.

As soon as the first prosecutor brought up chargers the law would be changed. A far better way of doing things than having civil servants choosing what laws to enforce.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley December 19, 2009 | 7:23 p.m.

Actually Prosecutors have what is known as "Prosecutorial Discretion", they can decide which laws to enforce and which laws not to enforce if they so choose.... Don't believe it? The Contra Costa County Prosecutor's Office in California has refused to prosecute SEVERAL misdemanors; read the link below:

There was a pretty big debate over this in Randolph County, and believe it or not the Prosecutor over there at the time demonstrated to everyone that he had the authority to prosecute or decline to prosecute whichever cases he wanted...

The law could easily be enforced to make us all "uncomfortable"; but thank God that at least some of the people that are enforcing the law are reasonable. As with anything, the key to keeping the balance between not making people miserable and still serving and protecting, is that the people doing the serving and protecting are reasonable.


Speak Your Mind FREELY:

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 19, 2009 | 10:50 p.m.

Kip, I'm not sure that unelected state employees take an oath of any sort. I would presume that would only be actual office holders. Shoot, I don't recall an oath of any sort when I took a seat on a county board. Anyone know for sure?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 20, 2009 | 9:17 a.m.

Those of us of a "certain age" who grew up in dairy states can remember the silly laws and regulations foisted upon us in an attempt to depress the sale of margarine versus butter.

One was that margarine couldn't be sold in colored form, which meant that you bought white margarine in a plastic squeezable bag, with a "dot" of yellow coloring agent inside. You broke the coloring "dot" and then kneaded the margarine in the plastic bag until it was all yellow. This was typically a chore given to older children to perform.

Then some jackass, representing the dairy lobby, tried to pass a law that all margarine must be colored purple! That was too much for even some dairy farmers to endorse.

(Report Comment)

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