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Has the U.S. Banned Vegemite?
image Disturbing news reports are leaking out of Australia. Apparently U.S. customs has banned the importation of Vegemite into the United States. What will Aussies living here do without their favorite food? The Sunday Times reports:
THE US has banned Vegemite, even to the point of searching Australians for jars of the spread when they enter the country. The bizarre crackdown was prompted because Vegemite has been deemed illegal under US food laws... Kraft spokeswoman Joanna Scott said: "The (US) Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid.'' The US was "a minor market'' for Vegemite, she said.
GeelongInfo.com also corroborates this story, reporting that one of their reporters was stopped while crossing from Canada into the US, and the border guards demanded to know if they were carrying Vegemite:
"We thought they were joking but it was real," Fogarty said. "We went down to Montana and were crossing the border, they searched everybody's car as they do and after they searched asked if we were carrying any Vegemite. We were completely shocked. Normally Sarah wouldn't travel far without Vegemite but for some reason we didn't have it." Police recognised the couple as Australians and thought they might be suspects.
But some are skeptical. Cerebral Soup reports finding no mention of such a ban on any US government site, except for a single mention of some vegemite coming from the UK being banned.

My theory is that Drop Bears are somehow responsible for the ban, since as everyone knows, one of the only defenses against a drop bear is to spread vegemite behind your ears. With no Vegemite in the US, we'll all be defenseless when they launch their attack.

UPDATE: The FDA have said that they have not banned vegemite. The refused batches from the UK were stopped for: "labeling problems (lack of ingredient list), suspected presence of a color additive not approved for use in food in the United States, and lack of registration of facilities and filing of processes for a low-acid canned food."

(Thanks, Nathan and Tom.)
Categories: Food
Posted by The Curator on Mon Oct 23, 2006
Banned Vegemite?! That's a bloody outrage!
Posted by Vincent  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  03:27 AM
What does Vegemite taste like? I'm in the States and have never had it.
Posted by ChristopherBago  in  Pittsburgh  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  05:43 AM
It's all over the news here. Sounds pretty strange to me. Personally I'm not a huge fan of the stuff, but it's got to be one of the most innocent products on store shelves today. I mean come on, it's a jar of black stuff with a yellow and red label and a yellow cap for a lid! What the hell could possibly be wrong with that?
Posted by Soldant  in  Brisbane Australia  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  07:00 AM
Well, if it is for real, the chances of me ever going to the US have dropped. I realised as soon as I got off the plane in Edinburgh that I forgot my jar of it and dragged Boo into the first store I saw that was selling it, so if I can't get it in the states, then I don't wanna go! (they proably don't want me there anyway, so no big loss I spose).

Oh, and vegemite tastes...unique. It's a bit hard to explain, especially since most people new to vegemite tend to spread it on as thick as you would peanut butter. The trick is to only have a thin coating of it (unless you're Boo). It's rather salty though but not as salty as Marmite. Promite is also similar but I think that's a Kiwi brand...
Hope that helps!
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  07:08 AM
gulp The US has banned vegemite???

While I'm not as bad as Nettie, it would be a hard task to visit the US without the prospect of being able to feast on vegemite on toast...
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  07:23 AM
Hard to know whether it is a hoax or not, but it does sound like the sort of stupidity that the FDA might start enforcing..

ChristopherBago: I doubt you ever will know what it tastes like now.. Although if you do get some, do NOT treat it like peanut butter.. Thin with plenty of butter on toast is good.. Or try with some cheese as well. Go to the wikipedia page for a pic that shows how it is done..

I called it the latest target in the war against terror: http://jroller.com/page/nathan?entry=latest_enemy_in_the_war


Hope the US realises how stupid this appears when folate is added to prevent childhood problems and spinal/brain defects in newborns.
Posted by Nathan Lee  in  Hong Kong (aussie expat)  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  07:40 AM
I thought that Kraft was a US company?


If the FDA was really concerned with the health effects of folic acid, they could slap a tax on it and call it alcohol. Problem fixed.
Posted by Peter Dulimov  in  Sydney, Australia  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  09:12 AM
I found many mentions of Vegemite on government websites, but mainly it was on educational pages where the strange and exotic Australian culture was being described. As far as official announcements and suchlike about Vegemite, here's what I could find:

On <a >one of the FDA webpages</a>:

United Kingdom 084-1013637-1 47 1
Nisa International Grimsby , GB
NYK-DO 25HCT99 KRAFT VEGEMITE SANDWICH SPREAD
DOES NOT REQUIRE FCE/SID
19-JAN-2006

Section: 402(a)(4), 801(a)(3); ADULTERATION
Charge: It appears the manufacturer is not registered as a low acid canned food or acidified food manufacturer pursuant to 21 CFR 108.25(c)(1) or 108.35(c)(1).

Section: 402(a)(4), 801(a)(3); ADULTERATION
Charge: It appears that the manufacturer has not filed information on its scheduled process as required by 21 CFR 108.25(c)(2) or 108.35(c)(2).


* * * * *

On <a >another FDA webpage</a>:

United Kingdom GX5-9910400-5 32 3
Nisaway Ltd Lincolnshire , GB
LOS-DO 37KCT99 VEGEMITE VEGETABLE EXTRACT
27-FEB-2006

Section: 402(c), 801(a)(3); ADULTERATION
Charge: The article appears to be, or to bear or contain a color additive which is unsafe within the meaning of Section 721(a).
Section: 403(i)(2), 801(a)(3); MISBRANDING
Charge: It appears the food is fabricated from two or more ingredients and the label does not list the common or usual name of each ingredient.
Section: 403(e)(2), 801(a)(3); MISBRANDING
Charge: The food is in package form and appears to not have a label containing an accurate statement of the quantity of the contents in terms of weight, measure or numerical count and no variations or exemptions have been prescribed by. . .


* * * * *

The USDA's Nutrient Data Laboratory has Vegemite mentioned once, although in what context I couldn't really figure out. It wasn't for anything bad, though, since it was <a >in a long, long list</a> that included about every other known type of food on Earth.

Other vegetables, cooked: (Subgroup Code 752)
752-3650 Yeast extract spread (Include Vegemite, Marmite, Promite)
1 tsp...................................................... 6 g
Serving not specified...................................... NA


* * * * *
Posted by Accipiter  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  11:41 AM
The California Department of Health Services lists Kraft Vegemite spread under its "Partial List of Tobacco Company Subsidiaries" in <a >Appendix A of this report</a> on school anti-tobacco programs, as well as <a >in the same connection on this web page</a>, <a >this web page</a>, <a >this web page</a>, <a >this web page</a>, <a >this web page</a>, and <a >this web page</a>. What this means I'm not really sure, as I didn't feel like reading the 40+ page files. But it's not anything against Vegemite itself.

* * * * *

It's also mentioned on <a >this page by the CDC</a>. Make what you will of it's about, I haven't a clue.

* * * * *

Also, the Office of Research Integrity <a >does not recommend offering Vegemite</a> or gefilte fish as compensation for messing up other peoples' work in American laboratories. . .
Posted by Accipiter  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  11:42 AM
australia has stopped exporting vegemite to canada.
it is prob just the same in the states.
you can prob still get marmite which is prctically the same.
Posted by me  in  canada  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  12:44 PM
With vegemite gone,the USA will be under attack by drop bears!!!!!!!!!!Soon the earth will be invaded, by drop bears!I need to change my name to Thisisnotadrilldropbearshaveinvadedtheearth! Seriously the vegemite ban does not make sense.


Please, oh great drop bear overlord,spare my life for destoying these pitiful human's defences by making there vegemite illegal!
Posted by Thisisnotadrillalienshaveinvadedtheearth!!  in  The invaded planet  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  03:58 PM
Australia Post has yet to add Vegemite to the list of prohibited items able to be sent to the US. Don't know if this is due to it being a hoax, or if they're just a bit slow on the uptake...
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  07:35 PM
The taste reminds me of the sticky or crispy brown bits that you scrape off the roasting pan after roasting meat; though more intense and salty. (But it is vegetarian.)

Like most Kiwi kids, I grew up with both Marmite and Vegemite as everyday toast spreads; people who didn't have it as kids generally don't like it. It has lots of vitamin B and helped me grow up big and strong!

Promite was never so common here, though you can get it. Australian, maybe? Marmite is saltier than Vegemite, but it's hard to describe the difference otherwise ... it tastes darker.
Posted by Wendy  in  Wellington, NZ  on  Mon Oct 23, 2006  at  08:13 PM
how can something taste darker? We have these ads in Britain with vegemite and marmite and what have u...its either u love it or u hate it. And because a lot of people have been stating they will not be going to US for lack of, I would like to say I have no problem with this ban. Will still be going to US. Does that mean i get an invite Alex?
Posted by Merve  in  london/athens/istanbul  on  Tue Oct 24, 2006  at  07:54 AM
Well...I called my local grocery store...no one there had even HEARD of it...let alone having it in stock. I bet if I checked the local healthfood store, they'd have it. My mom used to buy it...I remember seeing it in the fridge. We wouldn't eat it - but mom might have put it in w/ something else b/c of the vitamins. We were really poor when I was little...

I can't believe they hadn't heard of it...especially b/c this song was so damn popular:
Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, "Do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said "I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover." (I pulled that off a website, so I don't know if it's exactly the correct lyrics.)

When I go shopping this week, I'll have to stop into the health food store & check. My hubby's family spent some time in New Zealand...I vaguely recall seeing that red & yellow label in their fridge when I visited...his mom might have been a fan...or it could have been something else. smile

It just seems such a bizarre thing to ban. Pregnant women are prescribed folic acid to take w/ their pre-natal vitamins. I had a prenatal vitamin, an iron tablet (which I didn't take, b/c it yucked me out...I just ate a lot of liver & beef), and folic acid pills...which might have been blue. Eventually, my doc gave me an Rx for a prenatal vitamin that had more folic acid in it - and I just took the one pill.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Tue Oct 24, 2006  at  11:25 AM
I actually was going to email Alex about this a couple days ago, lol.

I couldn't find anything to verify a ban other than the above mentioned shipment(s) from the UK that was (were) stopped. I don't know what all the codes mean, but to me it looked more like a paperwork issue than an issue with the vegemite itself

It makes absolutely no sense to me. Folate is a vitamin. Furthermore, it's a vitamin that is now being ADDED to bread and grain products to fortify it. There is absolutely no reason why anything containing Folic Acid/folate should be banned. There have been widespread recent efforts to get women of child bearing age to consume more folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. It would make more sense for the FDA to encourage people to eat vegemite, rather than banning it for containing a substance that it's promoting people eat more of.

I initially heard about this from boing boing. The article said that the reason for the ban was that here in the US, folate could only be added to bread and cereal products. Since vegemite is a yeast extract, it could be argued that vegemite is a "bread product"

I also read on some aussie/us expat site's FAQ that back in 2000, it was determined that vegemite contained TOO MUCH folate and therefore as of 2005, you could only buy vegemite in 4oz containers in the US. I found nothing to even back that statement up. There was a link to a wikipedia article about folic acid that supposedly was the source of that "fact" but when I went to the article, I didn't see it mentioned.

I suppose the only way to really know for sure is if someone emails the FDA and they actually respond.

Someone who lives in NYC and who reads this website needs to do some investigating to see if it's still in stores down there. I used to see it all the time in Manhattan and once in LA, but never anywhere else in the states.
Posted by MadCarlotta  in  Canada  on  Tue Oct 24, 2006  at  04:49 PM
I can't believe no one has done this yet...

We're happy little vegemites, as bright as bright can be,
We all enjoy our vegemite for breakfast. lunch and tea,
Our Mummy sayd we're growing stronger every single week,
Because we love our vegemite, we all adore our vegemite,
It puts a rose in every cheek'


That is all.
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Tue Oct 24, 2006  at  07:09 PM
Another interesting article:

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=155019

US govt denies it's banned Vegemite
Wednesday Oct 25 06:28 AEST

Australians travelling to the US can breathe easy. So can the 100,000 or so Australian expatriates living in America.

The US government dismissed media reports it had banned Vegemite.

"There is no ban on Vegemite," US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Mike Herndon told AAP.

Media reports at the weekend claimed American border officials were confiscating Vegemite from Australians as they entered the US.

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The FDA, charged with policing America's food supply, has not issued an "import alert" to border officials to halt the import of Vegemite.

Herndon said the FDA was surprised by the media reports.

The controversy centres on folate, an ingredient in Vegemite.

Under US regulations, folate can be added only to breads and cereals.

"One of the Vitamin B components (in Vegemite) is folate," Herndon explained.

"In and of itself, it's not a violation. If they're adding folate to it, boosting it up, technically it would be a violation.

"But the FDA has not targeted it and I don't think we intend to target Vegemite simply because of that."

Joanna Scott, spokesperson for Vegemite's maker, Kraft, reportedly has said, "The Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid".

But Herndon said, "Nobody at the FDA has told them (Kraft) there is a ban".

To eradicate any grey areas or potential regulation breaches, Herndon said, Kraft could petition the FDA, something other food manufacturers have done.

While many Aussies living in the US rely on visiting Australian relatives and friends to bring them a jar or two of Vegemite from Australia, the product is available in some US supermarkets.

The price slapped on Vegemite, however, is tough to swallow.

A tiny, four ounce jar of Vegemite sells for around $US4.80 ($A6.33) in US supermarkets.
...

So maybe this was a case of an over zealous border official? Or is Kraft behind this as a publicity stunt?

But as far as I know: folate IS boosted in vegemite. The fact that a serving size has exactly 50% RDI and this article:
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/15/1052885324637.html
(about fortification of foods with folate) although not specifically stating vegemite is fortified it does say:

"Manufacturers of breakfast cereals and Vegemite, in particular, were quick to adopt the folate recommendations, he says. "But, on the whole, the extent of food fortification is somewhat less than we hoped.""

So that then still counts it out as it qualifies as "boosted"

Nath
Posted by Nathan Lee  in  Hong Kong (aussie expat)  on  Tue Oct 24, 2006  at  08:19 PM
LOL Nettie! I've been restraining myself from doing that. Of course, I'm also wanting to add Boo's "kill the infidels" refrain in. wink
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Wed Oct 25, 2006  at  07:06 AM
I was going to add in the 'kill the infidels' part but thought people would find me odd enough as it was...
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Wed Oct 25, 2006  at  08:57 AM
It seems that there is no Vegemite ban. My proof of this is the following email from the US Food and Drug Administration:

Dear Mr. Ward:

This email is in response to your inquiry regarding the food product Vegemite. The FDA has not prohibited the importation of Vegemite product. Earlier this year, FDA refused entry to a handful of Vegemite shipments offered for import from Great Britain. The refusals were based on three issues: labeling problems (lack of ingredient list), suspected presence of a color additive not approved for use in food in the United States, and lack of registration of facilities and filing of processes for a low-acid canned food.

I hope that this information answers your questions. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,
Stephen R. King
Public Affairs Specialist
Food and Drug Administration
6000 xxxxx Drive, Suite 101
Baltimore, MD 21xxx
410-xxx-xxx
fax: 410-xxx-xxx
(contact info edited out, but you can look him up on http://www.fda.gov if you want)
Posted by Tom Ward  in  Washington DC  on  Wed Oct 25, 2006  at  03:04 PM
The FDA guy's name is Stephen King? LOL
Posted by MadCarlotta  on  Wed Oct 25, 2006  at  03:19 PM
Accipiter wrote "The California Department of Health Services lists Kraft Vegemite spread under its "Partial List of Tobacco Company Subsidiaries""

This might have happened because Kraft is owned by Altria, which also happens to own phillip morris. So, technically, that would make kraft a tobacco company I guess...
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Thu Oct 26, 2006  at  08:53 PM
I think the FDA is full of *&%$#!!! and believe it somehow has managed to make it impossible to get in all the places we used to while saying it hasn't banned it--so typical of our current administration. They believe that if they deny something enough times it will become true. In this case it is something relatively innocuous but it still pisses me off(in the US this means "Makes me really angry"). I can't help but think that now that more Americans have become aware of the importance of taking folic acid regularly (as vitamins) whoever manufactures them has gotten petty about the little competition. But it's not like most Americans actually like Vegemite so I don't understand it. I used to get as many as 20 little bottles at a time from the World Market for my husband. As soon as we heard of the ban I rushed to the store to get as much of it as I could but it was too late. They had disappeared and when I asked, the only reason the manager could give me was that the item had been discontinued. Yet they're still selling Marmite! I personally don't like the stuff by my darling Aussie really misses it and won't touch Marmite with a ten foot pole and we don't dare ask of relatives coming to visit to bring it with them given the stories heard about customs.
Posted by Mari  in  Virginia, US  on  Fri Nov 10, 2006  at  06:31 PM
Why would a US person not understand what "pissed off" means?
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Sun Nov 12, 2006  at  07:45 PM
The explanation of pissed off was for people outside the US i think, Razela. Although i think that many people have a fair undertstanding of the term.
Posted by Merve  in  london/athens/istanbul  on  Mon Nov 13, 2006  at  01:08 AM
G'Day,
How much can a koala Bear!!!
Its the sweet taste of home, just had my vegy on crackers and came to learn a little more about all of this, maybe the last thing I ever imagined being made off limits...
Maybe the future just a simple warning on the tube will be enough???

PS It makes my mouth water Happy/Happy/Happy
But you do need to be introduced as a child to it.

Cut the crust of bread spread margarine and vegy then roll it up and cut into to bit size peices.

Childhood memories!!!
Posted by Carry  in  Boulder, Colorado  on  Fri Jan 26, 2007  at  08:52 PM
Hello. I live in San Jose, California and I went to buy a jar of Vegemite yesterday and the dates on the jars were expired. They checked and said that they had to pull all the jars and California couldn't get the product in anymore. (I loved the stuff). So, I bought a jar of Marmite at the British American store. I made a piece of toast and spread some Marmite on it - thinly. It was delicious. I like both products.
Posted by Star  in  San Jose, California  on  Thu Feb 15, 2007  at  10:55 PM
I have only just learned of the ban on vegemite into the US. I had every intention of taking my trusty little jar over there on Friday. Im almost ready to boycot going. Ive got 25 Rugby players going to Canada and the US this week and none of them will be happy.

How stupid banning something that is so good for you. How do we survive for 5 weeks. Ouch. It will kill me.
Posted by Kerri  in  Brizzy Australia  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  12:45 AM
Indeed, this is a major problem the Aussies will have to deal with. I don't understand why they had to take this decision now, when we all know that they real need it.
Posted by source naturals  on  Wed Jul 30, 2008  at  05:23 AM
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