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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


A section of Wisconsin law under the heading “oleomargarine regulations” states:

“The serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer.”

To protect its farmers and butter, America’s Dairyland banned yellow margarine in 1895, meaning it was legally available only in white, according to the Hoard Historical Museum and National Dairy Shrine in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

The law also generally prohibits serving oleomargarine or margarine to students, patients or inmates of any state institution as a substitute for butter. Violators can be fined between $100 and $500, imprisoned up to three months, or both.

Many Wisconsinites in the 1950s and ‘60s crossed state lines to buy yellow margarine. Wisconsin’s color ban ended in 1967 — but the ban on serving margarine at restaurants unless requested remains.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Wisconsin State Legislature: Oleomargarine regulations

Hoard Historical Museum: Oleo Wars

Wisconsin State Farmer: I can’t believe it’s not yellow: A peek into Wisconsin’s quirky margarine laws

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin banned selling yellow margarine for 72 years, so residents smuggled it in from Illinois

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for Milwaukee Magazine and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.