Bitter Butter Battle

Three inevitabilities of government regulations:

  1. They will be used by established industries to restrict competition from newer industries and products.
  2. They attempt to micromanage the economy, delving into the simplest details of business operation.
  3. They are harder to kill than fleas in a dog pound.

In 1996, margarine makers lobbied the U.S. Congress to repeal regulations nearly half a century old. The 1950 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires margarine to be:

a tint or shade containing more than one and six-tenths degrees of yellow, or yellow and red collectively, but with an excess of yellow over red, measured in terms of Lovibond tintometer scale

In addition to color requirements, the federal government restricts the size of margarine tubs and requires margarine-serving restaurants to post signs warning their customers of the fact. Before 1950, some states had even more ridiculous regulations. Dairy states, wanting to restrict butter's competition, required margarine to be pink or white.

"We want the same options that the butter people have, the cream cheese people have and the jelly people have," said the executive director of the National Margarine Manufacturers Association, pushing for the Margarine Equity Act. Some margarine makers want to lighten their color a bit.

Source: April 22, 1996 Wall Street Journal article, "Margarine makers spread a call for a world that is colorblind."