Delrich E-Z Color Margarine - This really happened.

Gather round, children, and hear a tale of baffling legislative stupidity that will anger up the blood! It seems that, in 1947, margarine was sold white, and had to be colored yellow by the end user. Why? Because the lawmakers at the time were dickheads, just like they are now. Dig it...
Nice-looking ad. Good painting. Primary colors. Blah blah blah. Why did consumers have to color their own margarine? Was it some chemistry thing, where the colorant shortened the shelf life of the vegetable ingredients in the margarine, and needed to be mixed immediately before use? Nothing nearly as sensible as that. It was the dairy lobby.

Note: Say what you want about Wikipedia, but the article there on margarine is clearly referenced. The external links and sources for the information are so thorough, all the facts look rock solid to me.

No sooner had margarine been invented (1869) than dairy farmers threw a tantrum. (Just in case you've spent the last 140 years with your head in a bucket of cement, margarine tastes a lot like butter with much less fat, making it more desirable than butter to lots of people).

In 1877, the United States began passing laws to make it hard for margarine to have a fair chance in the marketplace. Everything from extra taxes to expensive manufacturing licenses were dreamed up to prevent the low-fat butter substitute from gaining traction.

Margarine is pretty much vegetable oils, salt, and skim milk. In it's original state it's white. In order to resemble butter, yellow coloring must be added, and this was the deterrent generally settled upon by legislators in countries around the world, terrified of the destructive power of margarine. It became illegal to sell yellow margarine, thanks to the efforts of the dairy industry's lobbyists. In New Hampshire, lawmakers even tried to force margarine manufacturers to color it pink, hoping to make the stuff too gross to eat.(My country, tiiis of theee....). So, one of the workarounds devised by margarine makers was to sell the white margarine to consumers and have them color it themselves at home

This special package from Delrich had a little pimple of dye on the wall of the bag. Burst the pimple by pinching it and the dye was released into the bag. Squish it up for a while and you had a bag of safe legal, yellow margarine, and nobody would go to jail.

Here's a link to a USA Today article about obsolete unenforced margarine laws that were still on the books as recently as 2008.

These retarded laws remind me of the panic over CD ripping, and before that, VHS decks, and before that, cassette recordings of vinyl albums. In time, the lobbyists are proven to be panicky spazzes and the world completely fails to come to an end just because consumers are able to put their albums on cassette or are given an alternative to butter.

It seems that, if any new technology is met with fierce legal opposition, it's probably a good idea that will generally help people.


Craig said...

I was also surprised to learn that:

The tuna fish lobby made the amalgam of peanut butter and jelly illegal under punishment of death.

The oral dentifrice lobby made FDR sign a law making it unlawful to sell toothpaste unless it was sold in tubes emblazoned with swastikas.

The meat lobby made it unlawful to sell pork that wasn't enhanced with shit flavor.

Craig said...

PS: What the hell is "oleo"?

Anonymous said...

oleo=margarine. My Grandma always called margarine "oleo".

mudpuddle said...

As late as the mid-1960s, Canada still prohibited the sale of coloured margarine. We used to fight over who got to mix the colour into the bag of margarine. My brother and sister got in a fight over it, a tug-of-war ensued, and it ended with my brother whacking my sister over the head with the bag. The bag broke and my sister was covered with margarine.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...


Sorry to hear about your rich savory sister, bursting with creamery flavor that compliments any meal. I hope she was licked clean or lightly toasted and all was well.

Thanks for reading!


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