Minnesota State Fair pulls fill-your-own doughnuts that come with syringes

MINNEAPOLIS —Doughnuts with a side of syringes? You won’t find them at the Minnesota State Fair after all.

One of the new foods for 2019 has been drawing mounting controversy since it was announced last month, thanks to an unusual accessory to the dish. The Wingwalker Donut Flight of fill-your-own doughnut holes comes with three fillings: Bavarian cream, chocolate custard and Minnesota lingonberry jam. Each of the fillings was to be served in a plastic syringe.

“Incredibly wasteful,” “a gimmick,” and “gross” were some of the comments on the Minnesota State Fair’s Facebook page. Both the environmental impact of single-use plastics and the optics of drug paraphernalia littered on the ground at the fair drew complaints.

An online petition launched last weekend has so far garnered more than 3,000 signatures to “Stop the Minnesota State Fair from allowing Wingwalker Donut to use plastic syringes!”

The fair was listening. Since the new foods were announced, it has been in talks with the vendor, The Hangar, and a sustainability consultant to find another route.

Friday, the fair announced, the syringes are no more, and the doughnuts have been dropped from the Official New Food List (with a new replacement).

“We understand the impact food packaging has on the environment, and The Hangar, along with the fair, has decided that plastic syringes will not be used as part of the Wingwalker Donut Flight,” the fair said in a statement.

Instead, the cake doughnut holes will be served in a compostable tray with three compartments holding the different fillings. Instead of filling the doughnuts, customers can now dunk them.

Additionally, the vendor is “changing all of their food service trays and boats to ‘eco trays,’ a post-consumer recycled paper product; utensils made from wood will be given to guests instead of plastic forks and knives; and they will continue to use eco-friendly napkins made from recycled paper products.”

To replace the doughnuts from the official new foods list, The Hangar has come up with a new offering. It’s called Tailspin: “tangy BBQ sauce drizzled on top of french-fried onions and fresh-made coleslaw, layered over pulled pork, elote, Oaxaca cheese and peppery spices —all on a seasoned hash brown waffle.” No syringes necessary.

This isn’t the first time one of the fair’s new foods got recalled.

In 2017, vendor Hideaway Speakeasy changed the name of its “Swindler” smoked salmon sandwich after claims that it was anti-Semitic. It became the Swing-Dance Sandwich.

Jason Holtz launched the petition over the new doughnuts when he heard about the filling apparatus that was to be used.

“I don’t want to see however many of thousands of syringes that are used for a few seconds and then end up in the ocean or wherever they’re going to end up,” he said in an interview. “And with the opioid crisis, it’s sending a bad message that tasty things come from needles.”

In addition to the petition, the Minneapolis woodworker contacted the fair directly. And he’s spoken out before about the amount of trash generated at an event he’s dubbed “Garbage on a Stick.” He even brings his own reusable utensils and bowls to the fair.

“I think the fair could be doing such a better job at reducing the amount of waste it’s generated,” he said.

The syringes were one step too far for him. It was the first petition he ever started.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Holtz said. “I had to do something.”

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