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The Strangest Food Laws in Every State
From serving beer to elephants to eating peanuts in church, we've rounded up the weirdest, wackiest food laws from across the country.
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Throughout Alabama, it’s illegal for a person to walk down the street with an ice cream cone in their back pocket. Back when most people got around on horseback, horse thieves would put ice cream in their pocket to lure horses away without being charged with stealing. Luckily, not many people are trying to steal horses off the streets of Alabama today—and most prefer ice cream the traditional way.
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In Alaska, it is illegal to give alcohol to a moose. Back in 2007, a moose—later named Buzzwinkle by local media—was seen parading down the streets of Anchorage after dipping his face into a local brewery’s supply during the holiday season. After getting his antlers tangled in Christmas lights, he stumbled past Alaskans and inspired quite the laugh—and a new law!
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There’s a widespread belief that it’s unlawful in Arizona to refuse a person a glass of water. In a place as dry and hot as the Grand Canyon State, we wish this rumor were true. Thirsty? Here are the best and worst drinks for keeping hydrated.
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In Little Rock, Arkansas, it is against the law to honk a car horn in front of a sandwich shop after 9 p.m. We’re not entirely sure of the reason for this legislation, but we agree it’s easier to finish a late-night sandwich (including my favorite!) without a symphony of honks in the background.
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In the Golden State, a frog that has participated in a frog jumping competition cannot legally be killed (or, by extension, eaten). Apparently, these contests are a popular polliwog pastime for some Californians, who have tried in vain every year since 1986 to break the record of a frog called Rosie the Ribeter.
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If you’re yearning to wake up to the crow of a rooster, don’t settle down in Louisville, Colorado. In this Boulder County town, it’s illegal to own these loudmouthed foul. But don’t ruffle your feathers just yet, because the city does allow residents to own as many as three turkeys.
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In Connecticut, they say a pickle isn’t a pickle unless it can bounce. One thought is that this keeps vendors from selling expired or subpar pickles. Is the idea equal parts kooky and clever? Definitely. Is it an actual law, or does it remain unwritten? Well, that question leaves us in a pickle. (Let us know if you know more! And find out our pick for the best store-bought dill pickles, here.)
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Grab a checkered blanket and woven basket, and make sure you take a few big steps away from the road in Fenwick Island, Delaware, where it’s illegal to have a picnic on the highway! That this law exists makes us wonder whether early Delawareans were ahead of the curve when it comes to street food.
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In Miami Beach, it’s against the law to sell any food—even the state’s celebrated citrus—from open-air stands. Orange you glad you can still buy fresh fruit at the neighborhood (indoor) market? Try a couple of our favorite citrus varieties in this favorite recipe for Florida Citrus Meringue Pie.
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In Gainesville, Georgia, also known as the Poultry Capital of the World, chicken must be eaten with the hands instead of a fork and knife. This law was intended to be a prank, but at one point the local police department jokingly created an ordinance to make it official.
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For a while, it was illegal to have more than one alcoholic drink in front of you at a time. Today, however, Hawaiians have the right to double-fist their adult beverages just like the rest of us. Legislators decided to repeal the law in 2014 after they realized their well-intended ordinance to slow alcohol consumption actually caused people to chug drinks as fast as they could in order to receive a second.
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People like to say it’s illegal to fish from a camel’s back in Idaho, which is technically true, but the actual law prohibits fishing from the back of any animal. This law was originally meant to dissuade horseback riders, but the alternatives (like camels) are fun to imagine, too.
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In Chicago, it is illegal to eat in a place that is on fire, so if you’re dining in the Windy City and your table is on fire, make sure you call both the fire department and the police. (If your mouth is the only thing on fire, however, it’s probably a sign to slow down on the spicy jalapeno poppers.)
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There’s nothing more satisfying than a summertime slice of watermelon, but it’s actually illegal to eat them in the parks of Beech Grove, Indiana. Parks staff came up with the ordinance after realizing that watermelon rinds often punched through garbage bags and caused messes. Luckily, the law doesn’t mention watermelon slush.
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In 1967, the town of Indianola banned ice cream trucks from roaming its streets. Lucky for town residents, there’s a pretty easy way to make ice cream at home.
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In Derby, Kansas, it’s illegal to hit a vending machine. C’mon, people…there’s no need to get riled up over loose change when you can make your favorite junk food snacks at home.
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Remember that weird ice-cream-cone-in-a-back-pocket law listed for Alabama above? It’s a law in Kentucky and Georgia, too.
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In Louisiana, you can’t order goods and services to be delivered to a person without their consent. That means no more prank pizzas! Luckily, we have plenty of better pizza gift ideas.
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Maine is serious about their clam chowder—so serious that a law prohibiting the use of tomatoes in clam chowder was at one point given serious consideration. Real New Englanders will appreciate our contest-winning take on this delicious soup.
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Speaking of seafood, you’d better be careful what you do with those extra shells. While the state of Maryland encourages the recycling of oyster shells, there are a few things you can’t do with them. For one, you can’t feed them to chickens—and you’re also not allowed to use them as road construction materials. Luckily, that’s one of the last things on our minds when it comes to making and eating oysters Rockefeller.
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If you’re starting a pig farm in Detroit, you either have to have strong fences or bejeweled swine, because it’s illegal to let pigs run loose in the Motor City without rings in their noses.
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Meat eaters, take note: Hamburgers are illegal on Sundays in St. Cloud. If you indulge in one of our top 10 burger recipes, be sure to do it very, very sneakily. We promise we won’t tell anyone.
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In 2013, Mississippi passed the Anti-Bloomberg bill to offset the impact of a nationwide nutrition-labeling law. In the rest of the country, it’s illegal to serve massive portion sizes (think supersize sodas) at restaurants—but in Mississippi, diners may indulge to their hearts’ content. (And speaking of content hearts…)
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If you were hoping to get more than just yourself intoxicated at your next circus visit, don’t get your hopes up for Natchez, Missouri: In this town, it’s illegal to provide beer to elephants. Maybe they’d prefer a trunk full of champagne?
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We found nothing to support the oft-repeated claim that it’s illegal for unmarried women to go fishing alone in the Treasure State. (If such a law does exist, it’s archaic, obsolete and definitely sexist—so grab your bait and tackle, ladies, and have at it!)
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Welcome to the Cornhusker State, where it’s illegal for bar owners to sell alcohol unless they’re simultaneously cooking up a kettle of soup. If you’re looking to fill up on more than just Bud Light, ask if there’s any chicken noodle on hand.
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In Nyala, Nevada, a man may not buy drinks for more than three other people at any one period of the day. We’re fairly sure this one only applies to alcohol, but just to be safe, if the whole family wants lemonades, send Mom.
Late-night sushi lovers, we have bad news for you: In New Hampshire, it is illegal to harvest seaweed at night.
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Before you dive into a bowl of bisque in the Garden State…have you heard that New Jersey does not permit the slurping of soup? (Not to encourage potentially illegal behavior, but we think these soups are totally slurpable.)
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In Las Cruces, New Mexico, don’t get caught carrying a lunchbox down Main Street—even if it’s a super cool lunch box, like these. This rule is a real head-scratcher, but we hear it’s designed to encourage folks to patronize area restaurants.
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Until 2016 in New York City, it was illegal to have booze with brunch. Today, however, we can celebrate a whole year of mid-morning mimosa opportunities. We love this reader-submitted Orange-Apricot Mimosa Punch.
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It’s said that beer and pretzels can’t be served at the same time in any North Dakota bar or restaurant, but this myth stems from a misreading of the law. So, go ahead, North Dakotans—eat your beer ‘n’ Gouda pretzels. Despite what you might’ve heard, the law can’t stop you.
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In Marion, Ohio, it’s illegal to eat a doughnut while walking backward. They’d probably prefer we eat buckeyes (backward and forward), considering they’re part of the Buckeye State.
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We’ve been told it’s verboten to eat ice cream on Sunday in Oregon. True or not, we’re just glad the state’s famous Marionberry Pie is still 100% okay.
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In the borough of Ridley Park, you are not allowed to eat peanuts while walking backwards in front of the Barnstormers Auditorium during a performance. This might be the oddest (and most specific!) rule on our list.
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In Spartanburg, South Carolina, eating watermelons in the Magnolia Street Cemetery is forbidden. Unlike in Indiana’s parks, where the plastic-bag-puncturing power of the rinds was to blame, Magnolia Street took this step to deter unwanted watermelon vines from sprouting up on cemetery grounds.
Photo: Shutterstock / Katja El Sol
As for weird food laws in South Dakota, many believe it’s illegal to sleep in a cheese factory there. While there’s some truth to this, the actual law is far less specific, prohibiting sleeping in any area where food is prepared or provided in mass quantities. (Alas, this means candy factories are off-limits, too.)
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In the Volunteer State, it is illegal to catch fish with anything other than a rod and reel, which explains an amusing admonishment against fishing Tennessee’s waters with a lasso. Despite lasso fishing being forbidden, we admit we’d like to see someone try (though maybe in a state with more relaxed lasso laws).
Photo: Shutterstock / Iakov Filimonov
There’s a lot of good food to be had in the Lone Star Sate—just take a gander at our roundup of the 50 best Texan foods! A warning, however: It may be illegal to sell Limburger cheese in Houston on a Sunday. Limburger has earned its reputation as one of the world’s stinkiest cheeses, so if this one’s true, we’re not complaining.
Photo: Shutterstock / Bell nipon
Calling 911! It’s illegal in Utah to serve alcohol during a government-declared emergency. So no Fireball during a fire, no Mudslides during a mudslide, and…well…you get the picture. This one is probably for the best.
Photo: Shutterstock / Joerg Beuge
In an effort to prop up the butter industry, such states as Vermont once required margarine companies to dye their product off-putting colors to make its difference from butter obvious and discourage people from buying it. Imagine seeing bright pink margarine at the store!
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In Hampton Roads, Virginia, children over the age of 13 may not go trick-or-treating. As a consolation to those kids, everyone knows the homemade treats at Halloween parties are better.
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While there’s a myth that Washington state has banned all lollipops, actual legislation remains silent on the subject. But even if hard candy suckers really were a no-go, you could still get away with making this cute, melt-in-your-mouth lollipop recipe.
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What do Wisconsin students, inmates and patients have in common? Public schools, jails and hospitals are not permitted to feed them margarine. Per state law, these groups may not be fed butter substitutes unless the substitution is necessary for their health. Sounds pretty weird, but this law was put in place to protect the butter industry in America’s Dairyland.
Photo: Shutterstock / OlegDoroshin
Last but not least, Wyoming has prohibited fishing from aircraft—so if you were planning to hook your seafood dinner from on high, you’ll have to go to some other state.
What did you think of these odd food laws? Are there any we missed? Any you especially agree with? Ones you want to break?