Wacky and weird food and drink laws around the world

In 1657, the king of England, Oliver Cromwell, decided the he was going to ban all Christmas celebrations. Some say it was to tackle the increasing vice of gluttony, others say it was because Cromwell believed the tradition had roots in paganism.

And so, Christmas and all of its much-loved festivities were banned. What did this mean for the people of Cromwell’s England? Well, for one thing, it meant that eating mince pies on Christmas day became illegal, as Cromwell saw eating mince pies as a way to try and celebrate the banned holiday.

Okay, so maybe the ban of mince pies is more of a myth than a current and strongly enforced law that will land you in handcuffs or behind bars. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bizarre and wacky food and drink laws out there; no traveler wants to end up on 60 Minutes or Locked Up Abroad for breaking the law while traveling overseas.

We all know that laws help maintain order, keep society safe, and give people a structure by which to live their lives; sometimes they reflect a moral code, guiding citizens in the uncertain territory between right and wrong.

Some laws, though, are just plain bizarre — rules without rhyme or reason, whose origins have long since been forgotten, where as other have a more definitive (and possibly sensible) context behind them. Did you know, for instance, that in Singapore you need a doctor’s note in order to buy and chew gum? In a way, many a New Yorker might appreciate such a law. Think of how clean the city streets, the subway ramps, and the underside of diner tables would be all if gum was deemed illegal. It sounds beautiful, but popping in a stick of Orbit Cool Mint gum, which tastes exactly like Cookies’n’Cream ice cream, puts a fresh jolt into every day life.

There are others laws around the world that make Singapore’s gum law sound almost normal, like the fact that Belgians are perfectly within their legal rights to throw Brussels sprouts at tourists (yikes!), or that it is illegal to sell watermelons in some parts of Brazil.

Here is a look at some of the craziest, wackiest food laws around the world — it might just keep you out of handcuffs on your next trip abroad.

1. No Ketchup for You


In October 2011, France banned the use of ketchup in its schools. It seems that authorities in France saw ketchup as a threat to all things French and a form of American cultural hegemony at its finest (or tastiest?).

“We have to ensure that children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generation,” said Christophe Hebert, chairman of the National Association of Directors of Collective Restaurants and the person behind the ban.

2. Do as the Locals Do


This one isn’t so much of a “wacky” law, but it is one that foreigners may be unprepared to abide by. In 2011, Dubai’s Foreign Office decreed that tourists holidaying in the UAE during Ramadan should be considerate of local laws and customs, which means no eating or drinking during the day. Tourists, therefore, face the risk of being thrown in jail for eating, drinking or smoking in public.

3. Be Careful of How You Crush Your Beer Cans in Australia


Next time you’re out in Western Australia, remember that crushing a can of beer between your breasts, should you wish to do so, can land you in jail. No, this isn’t a joke. A bartender (or barmaid, as they say in Australia) was arrested, tried, and fined for flaunting her crushing talent.

4. Beware the Brussels Sprouts


This is a bit worse than those childhood standoffs where we weren’t allowed leave the dinner table without finishing our Brussels sprouts. In Belgium, it is perfectly legal to throw Brussels sprouts at tourists — so don’t offend the locals unless you’re prepared to accept your just (albeit bitter) desserts.

5. Swallow That Gum or Get a Fine.


Did you know that chewing gum on Singapore’s MRT ( Mass Rapid Transit) could land you with a hefty fine? The sale and chewing of gum in Singapore has been illegal for more than 20 years, but in 2004 the law changed, and citizens can now be prescribed gum by a doctor.

6. Keeping Cows Safe


Scotland has made sure its legal priorities are as straight as a Scott’s vision after a night at the pub. Law in Scotland says that a drunken man cannot be in possession of a cow. How obvious is that one?

Check out more food laws that have us scratching our heads.

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