The Weirdest Food Laws in the USA That Are Actually Real

You'd better watch your mouth. And your hands.

Did you know you’ll probably pay a hefty fine if you buy a cold beer or a hot toddy for a moose in Fairbanks, AK? Ensuring the Last Frontier’s moose are teetotalers is just one of the weirdest food laws in the USA. We live in one of the most litigious countries in the world, so it makes sense that some of our food laws are downright odd, strange, and somewhat unnecessary. I’m really a burger and fries kind of diner myself, and I’m a pizza addict, so I’m rarely doing anything illegal at the table. You might be a bit more adventurous than I am, so here’s a baker’s dozen of some of the weirdest food laws in the USA—keep them in mind whenever you sally forth on a culinary adventure.

  1. You’ll need to put something on that hot dog, in Broward County, Florida, where hot dog vendors aren’t permitted to wear anything sexy while they’re serving up your dog, which is a shame, because there’s nothing more appetizing than ordering a hot dog from a vendor wearing a thong bikini, especially if he’s got a little mustard on his chest hair.
  2. If you are considering a career in crime, you might want to confine your activities to Wisconsin, where it’s illegal to serve any substitution for butter in prison and in other state institutions. Life in prison? Truly awful. Life in prison without butter? Unbearable.
  3. In Gainesville, GA, it’s illegal to eat fried chicken with utensils. You must use your hands exclusively. Why? In Gainesville, fried chicken is “a culinary delicacy sacred to this municipality, this county, this state, the Southland, and this republic.” Planning on eating Georgia poultry in Gainesville? Bring extra moist wipes.
  4. In Beech Grove, IN, you can’t eat watermelon in a park. The Beech Grove laws on the book include a city ordinance that prohibits watermelon consumption in the municipality’s parks, after it was found discarded “rinds had punctured garbage bags in the park,” which didn’t sweeten collection activities for sanitation workers. Want to enjoy a park in Beech Grove but planning to eat watermelons? Finish them in your car.
  5. A Tennessee law bans catching fish with a lasso! Even if you end up jail for roping a few trout, if you can actually do it, it’s worth it!
  6. In the great state of Louisiana, it’s illegal to order goods and services to be delivered to someone if that person doesn’t know the delivery is coming. Back in the day, when I was a youngster, we used to make what we called “phony phone calls”—the bolder among us would call pizzerias and have pizzas delivered to the house of someone they wanted to torment (usually a high school teacher). These days, even if you’re not in Louisiana, I say don’t do it. Chances are, you’ll forget to set your cell phone number to private and you’ll incriminate yourself (if you do, and they arrest you, try to end up in a Wisconsin prison).
  7. In Alabama, it’s forbidden to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket, which is unfortunate, as everyone knows that’s the best way to keep the ice cream from falling off the cone. Not sure exactly how this one started, but I imagine, as a dad, someone actually walked into an ice cream parlor and demanded another ice cream cone for his kid because Junior lost every scoop of ice cream after he stuffed the cone in his back pocket.
  8. In Hawaii, it’s illegal to have two drinks in front of you at a bar or restaurant, so just order a glass and an entire bottle of whatever you’re drinking! Or bring a mannequin with you whenever you go out drinking and seat it right beside you…
  9. If you’re in Derby, KS, and a vending machine takes your cash and doesn’t return some sort of cold drink or snack food to you, please do not hit the machine—it’s illegal. So take extra care if you’re trying to purchase something from a vending machine in the Derby police station.
  10. Minnesota is not nice! A city ordinance in St. Cloud, MN prohibits the purchase and consumption of burgers on Sunday. You are permitted to grill at home, though, thankfully, and if you’re desperate, it’s not that far to Minneapolis.
  11. If you live in St. Louis, MO, and you actually have a milkman, be patient! Your milkman, or woman, is prohibited from running while on duty—which is probably a good thing if your milk comes in glass bottles.
  12. One of the laws on the books in Lehigh, NE, prohibits the sale and consumption of donut holes. I’m pretty sure the good folks at Dunkin’ Donuts aren’t pleased about this, better to outlaw the holes than donuts! And as long as I can get a large iced coffee…
  13. In Greene, NY, you can’t eat peanuts while walking backwards on municipal sidewalks. If you’re walking backward on the sidewalk so you can feed your pet elephant, that’s fine—as long as you’re not eating them. If you do decide to sneak a few, however, chances are you’ll get away with it, as everyone will be distracted by your elephant.

Okay, that’s a pretty interesting assortment of some of the weirdest food laws in the USA that are actually real—now you know. It gives a whole new meaning to "watch what you eat," doesn’t it? And how and where! 

David Porter
David Porter

David A. Porter has been the editor at large for Stereo Embers Magazine, an online music site, since 2007. David received an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from San Francisco State University. He is a Rutgers graduate.


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The Weirdest Food Laws in the USA That Are Actually Real