The Surprising Food New Yorkers Will Soon Need ID To Buy

If you live in New York and had been planning to serve a quick dessert garnished with canned whipped cream, you may have heard that picking up a can will no longer be as simple as dashing in and out of the bodega — because a little-known law enacted last November is now finally being enforced.

Per Winsight Grocery Business, stores around the state are now carding customers who are looking to buy cans of whipped cream to make sure they are over the age of 21. The penalties are harsh for businesses that don't comply: Stores that sell whipped cream chargers to underage customers can be fined up to $250 for the first offense, then $500 for every offense thereafter.

At first glance, the rule might seem to fall under the category of "strangest food laws in every state," up there with not keeping an ice cream cone in your back pocket (Alabama); not taking a bite of someone else's burger (Oklahoma); or only eating chicken with your hands (Georgia), per Taste of Home. However, the whipped cream law is an attempt to prevent something more serious. People appear to be using cartridges found in whipped cream cans as a whippet, or a source of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), which can leave people feeling drunk or high when they inhale it, per the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

The ban is designed to keep whippets out of the hands of teens

New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who sponsored the bill, called the legislation "an important step in combatting a significant problem for many neighborhoods" in his district, per an October 2021 press release. Now that the law is being enforced to much confusion from the public, he's clarified that it wasn't meant to prevent anyone from buying cans of whipped cream. Rather, it makes the sale of the "individual cartridge or charger inside the whipped cream canisters" to those under 21 illegal. He also added that since the law took effect in November, his constituents have seen fewer nitrous oxide cartridges in the streets (via Twitter).

It might seem odd for a treat like whipped cream to go hand in hand with something as poisonous as nitrous oxide, but per Gizmodo, pushing the gas through the cream is what transforms it into the foam that looks so attractive on our desserts. The gas even helps keep the cream from turning into a hotbed of bacteria, since it acts as an inhibitor that kills off germs.

While the whippet law is in its early days of being enforced, and confused New York business owners may continue to card for whipped cream purchases, you might want to bring your ID to the store if you need the airy topping. Otherwise, consider buying Cool Whip or a carton of whipping cream, which, when beaten with a whisk or a hand mixer, will give you homemade whipped cream instead.