11 of the Weirdest Food Laws in the Country

Lady pointing gun at fish
Shutterstock (edited)

Though we're all painfully aware of our nation's parking laws, most of America is sadly behind on its food legislation -- particularly the kind that makes cheese naps illegal. Since you should know your rights (and also deserve a laugh) we rounded up a few of the oddest food-themed laws on the books, from the outrageously specific to the straight-up nonsensical. Whatever you do, don't get any bright ideas about used kitchen grease heists on your next trip to North Carolina.

Fried chicken
Mike Gebert/Thrillist

You have to eat fried chicken with your hands in Gainesville, Georgia

Back in 1961, Gainesville established a city ordinance that prohibits diners from eating fried chicken with anything other than their bare hands. The chief of police even arrested a 91-year-old lady for using a fork in 2009... before swiftly pardoning her and dubbing her an "Honorary Georgia Poultry Princess." Jeez, it's like they don't even take their publicity stunt laws seriously.

Don't you do anything with oyster shells in Maryland

Specifically, you're not allowed to convert oysters or oyster shells into lime, chickenmeal, or road construction materials. Unless you get special permission. Then you can absolutely turn those shells into traffic cones.

The sale of plastic water bottles is verboten in Concord, Massachusetts

As of 2013, you can't sell single-serving plastic water bottles anywhere in the town of Concord. (In San Francisco, another spot that passed similar legislation, it's only illegal on city-owned property.) The ban was pushed by local environmentalists who are committed to conserving fossil fuels and also super into their Nalgenes.

Hot dog vendor

Broward County, Florida won't let food vendors dress provocatively

If you have some time to kill in the law library, treat yourself to the sensational mobile food units section of Broward County's legal code. On top of deeming any food vendors in G-strings, T-back bathing suits, or thong bikinis a traffic hazard, it spends a lot of time talking about human anatomy in unbelievable detail, leading us to wonder what depraved hot dog dude spurred this legislation.

Don't steal used restaurant grease from a North Carolina kitchen

Taking waste kitchen grease is an offense in NC, and you could be in real trouble depending on how much you swipe. If the grease is valued at $1,000 or lower (by local grease appraisers, of course) you've committed a Class 1 misdemeanor. But if that grease is worth over $1,000, you've just committed a felony, and you will pay for your kitchen crime spree.

No pizza pranks allowed in NOLA

Ordering 50 pies for your old math teacher might seem like a solid Friday night plan, but it could land you in court. Louisiana law bans the "unauthorized ordering of goods or services" -- and there's even specific language about people who intend to "harass or annoy" the recipient. We're still seeking precedent for prosecution on ringing doorbells and running away.

Fishing with firearms is a crime in Wyoming

Fishing is a fair fight in Wyoming, where people are prohibited from taking, hurting, or obliterating a fish with a gun. Hopefully someone has informed Ted Nugent, who knows no other way.

Flickr/Ian Lloyd

No falling asleep in a cheese factory in Tennessee

If you're looking to curl up next to some Gouda, don't go to Memphis. Tennessee prohibits people from sleeping (or living) in any room of a "bakeshop, kitchen, dining room, confectionery, creamery, cheese factory, or place where food is prepared for sale, served, or sold." Just to be safe, don't even yawn when walking past a restaurant.

Only real butter is allowed in Wisconsin state prisons

Wisconsin believes no one should be subjected to margarine, not even incarcerated criminals. Under their oleo regulations, butter substitutes may not be served to "students, patients, or inmates of any state institution" unless a physician orders it for their health. Which explains why Wisconsin doctors get so many free Fabio posters from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Rhode Island bakeries can't mark up cardboard

While RI law seemingly grants people in the baking biz the right to "permanently affix [a] name or mark on any bakery container" they own, that freedom does not apply to any cardboard or fiberboard containers. What's the point if you can't Sharpie all over a fiberboard cakebox?

San Francisco is serious about its open-container laws

Especially when it comes to baked goods. Carrying any breads or pastries in a basket or "exposed" container could earn you a hefty fine -- though at least SF bakers can mark up their containers however they please.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and seriously wants to know what prompted that Broward County code. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.