CHICAGO
09/19/2011 06:01 pm ET | Updated Nov 19, 2011

Margarine Ban Faces Opposition From Wisconsin Lawmakers

The Dairy State's longstanding ban on distribution of its vegetable-derived rival in restaurants may soon melt right off Wisconsin's lawbooks.

Eleven state representatives are co-sponsoring a bill that would repeal the 44-year-old law that forbids Wisconsin restaurants from serving margarine at tables instead of butter, the Associated Press reports.

The existing ban is a softened version of an 1895 prohibition against the manufacture and sale of butter-colored margarine, which was so strict that one man was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 1910 for selling it, according to Madison's Daily Reporter.

Although many restaurants circumvent the ban, which allows for the distribution of margarine if requested by a customer, by offering both, the butter-only policy has favored the state's massive dairy industry in state institutions, like schools, hospitals and the prison system, where about 20,000 inmates are supplied only butter, the Daily Reporter reports.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, who introduced the bill, cites this favoritism as one of the reasons the margarine ban is unfair, calling the law "silly, antiquated and anti-free market," according to the Associated Press.

The margarine-butter debate has a long political history in Wisconsin, where Sen. Gordon Roseleip, R-Darlington, a strong advocate for the state's dairy industry, fervently campaigned against the butter substitute in the 1960s, saying it tasted different than butter and arguing that it wasn't healthy--until another state senator challenged him to a blind taste test and he showed a preference for margarine, uncovering the secret that his family had been sneaking the hefty congressman the low-fat substitute, according to the Daily Reporter.

Nonetheless, the ban Roseleip fought for remains in the books, and Republicans are targeting the law as an example of statewide goals to save taxpayer money and reduce regulations.

Flickr photo by Jessica Mullen.