Because of opposition from the state’s dairy industry, citizens of Michigan had to pass a statewide referendum to allow the sale of yellow oleomargarine.
On Nov. 7, 1950, Michiganders marched to the polls and voted for the right to — buy colored oleomargarine.
The spread we call margarine was invented as a substitute for butter. The dairy lobby, working to stifle competition, had successfully opposed efforts to color the margarine to look more like butter. In fact, some states had laws that required oleo, as it was sometimes known, to be colored pink so that consumers would not be confused — and so that the stuff would look nasty. In some places, shoppers had to pay an extra tax to get yellow margarine. There was even yellow oleo smuggling. Michigan was one of seven states where the manufacture and sale of yellow oleomargarine was a crime.
Older Michiganders remember buying margarine in bags that contained a capsule of food coloring. They broke open the food coloring and mixed it with the margarine to make it look edible. Yummy. Uncolored margarine, a chemical cousin of shortening, is almost white.
The last state to legalize yellow oleomargarine was the dairy state of Wisconsin.
Joe Grimm, “THIS WEEK IN MICHIGAN: Voters approve yellow margarine”, Detroit Free Press, November 5, 2006.