Australian minister: US tried to take my Vegemite

2011-09-19 10:07

Canberra – Australia’s foreign minister said American authorities tried to confiscate his supply of Vegemite as he entered the US.

It’s the second time this year that Australia’s signature yeast extract spread has sparked high-level – if light-hearted – diplomatic disagreement.

Foreign Minster Kevin Rudd tweeted yesterday that airport authorities in New York had questioned his bringing in the dark brown paste, a by-product of brewing beer that is popular among many Australians on sandwiches, toast and crackers but is widely recognised as an acquired taste.

“Only problem travelling to NY is that they tried to confiscate our Vegemite at the airport. Needed Foreign Ministerial intervention (sic),” Rudd tweeted from New York.

“Airport staff were surprised when I said it is good for you & I ate it for breakfast. They then waved me through,” he added.

Difference in taste

Vegemite was also a source of disagreement when Julia Gillard made her only visit to the US as prime minister in March. She and US President Barack Obama visited a high school in Virginia where an 11th Grade student asked what Vegemite was.

“It’s horrible,” Obama exclaimed.

“I love Vegemite,” Gillard said, noting that their opinions of the spread serves as a “little bit of division” between the two of them.

The Australian invention, launched in 1923, has a high Vitamin B content and is marketed heavily on its health benefits for children. Australians abroad commonly bemoan how difficult Vegemite is to find outside Australia.

It sparked international curiosity when “a Vegemite sandwich” was mentioned in the lyrics of Australian band Men at Work’s hit song Down Under that topped the US and British charts in 1983.

Former prime minister John Howard claims that more Australians know the lyrics of a Vegemite advertising jingle written in 1954 than know the Australian national anthem.

Rudd, a former prime minister and avid tweeter with more than 1 million followers, arrived in New York from Mexico on Saturday. He will address the UN General Assembly before he is scheduled to leave New York on Friday.

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