Protectionist statutes meant to insulate dominant state industries by restricting or banning sales of foods and beverages that compete with local products aren’t just inane, they’re unconstitutional.  That hasn’t stopped the State of Wisconsin from keeping (and mildly enforcing) a law dating back the the 1950s that requires the grading of any butter sold in the in the state by the WI Department of Agriculture (check out the grading FAQ from the WisDOA here) (or a U.S. Grade) prior to sale:

(1) It is unlawful to sell, offer or expose for sale, or have in possession with intent to sell, any butter at retail unless it has been graded. …

(5) Butter from outside of the state sold within the state shall be provided with a label which indicates that it complies with the state grade standards as provided in this section and which indicates the grade in a manner equivalent to the requirements for butter manufactured and sold within the state. …

(7) No person, for himself or herself, or as an agent, shall advertise the sale of any butter at a stated price, unless the grade of the butter is set forth in such advertisement in not less than 10-point type.

Wisconsin bars Kerrygold butter along with other European brands through these grading requirements because those brands do not submit to the “grading” measures offered by the U.S. or the State.

This may all change soon as a group of consumers and a Wisconsin retailer have brought suit against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture challenging the statute that bans the sale of ungraded butters.  The grounds for the challenge rest on the lack of a rational basis for the state’s interference with the economic freedoms of citizens.  The lack of an adequate government purpose (these laws don’t relate to health or safety concerns) is alleged to lead to due process and equal protection violations. The suit also (properly) asserts  that Section 7 of the statute as an unconstitutional restriction on the Free Speech of sellers or advertisers by compelling those parties to say what the State of Wisconsin thinks of the butter.  You can read the full complaint here.

Access to foods is a right as much as access to food for impoverished or under-served communities is a right.  The latter is certainly more important than the former on any scale measuring ethical living and societal justice, but all the same, no one should be able to tell you what you can and can’t eat and they certainly should not get to restrict your intake through the apparatus of the state by enforcing arbitrary and overreaching state guidelines.

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