While many of these laws are ones enacted a few hundred years ago that have yet to be amended, others are results of the practices of our modern world. We’ve rounded up 21 of the world’s weirdest food and drink laws for you to peruse.
Reporting by Hayden Field, Alexandra E. Petri, and Nikkitha Bakshani.
Nigeria has a law that makes imported beer illegal. So does that mean it’s illegal to drink in Nigeria? Not exactly. It’s okay to purchase and drink local beer if you can find it, as long as you’re 21. This is not the case in some religious Northern states, where alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited, yet secret drinking dens thrive.
This is a bit worse than those childhood standoffs when 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.
Every sturgeon, whale, dolphin, and porpoise caught off the coast of the United Kingdom is the official property of the Queen, according to a law enacted during the reign of Edward II that never quite got repealed. Seriously. Guess what happened to a rare sturgeon caught by two Welsh boys? Off to the royal palace.
This one isn’t exactly 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. Luckily for tourists, this rule only applies in public places. While tourists who might not know the law are usually given a pass, Muslims, from home or abroad, could go to jail.
Sitting on a bench and tossing bread crumbs to all the little birds that gather at your feet can be one of the great pleasures of city life. Try doing this in San Francisco, however, and you’re likely to get slapped with a fine. That’s right. It’s illegal to feed pigeons on the streets or sidewalks of the city.
Scotland has made sure its legal priorities are as straight as a Scot’s vision after a night at the pub. A law in this country says that a drunken man cannot be in possession of a cow. How obvious is that one?
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 worst (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.
There is no better way to cool off from the hot summer sun than to bite into a juicy and refreshing watermelon, but don’t expect that kind of reprieve in Rio Claro, Brazil. Why? Because watermelon is prohibited, of course. And we can’t seem to figure out the official reason why.
Planning on enjoying some gelato in le piazze, or squares, around Florence on your next vacation? Well, make sure you’re not breaking any laws in the process. It is against the law to eat and drink near public buildings and main churches. Better think twice before plopping down with a cone of stracciatella on those picturesque church steps.
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 due to people’s tendency to dispose of it on sidewalks or on subway doors instead of in the trash, but in 2004 the law changed, and citizens can now chew “therapeutic gum” prescribed by pharmacists and dentists.
Littering is something we shouldn’t make a habit of, but every so often we are all guilty of spitting out our gum on the sidewalk. (It loses flavor, people!) Try doing that in Thailand and you’ll be faced with a fine of $600 or more — and you could go to jail if you don’t pay it. Maybe Singapore has the right idea in banning it altogether.