Tue, Sep 20, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Australian foreign minister fights for his Vegemite in US

AP, CANBERRA

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said US authorities tried to confiscate his supply of Vegemite as he entered the US. It is the second time this year that Australia’s signature yeast extract spread has sparked high-level — if lighthearted — diplomatic disagreement.

Rudd tweeted on Sunday that airport authorities in New York had questioned his bringing in the dark brown paste, a byproduct of brewing beer that is popular among many Australians on sandwiches, toast and crackers, but is widely recognized as an acquired taste.

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

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

Vegemite was also a source of disagreement when Australian Prime Minister 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 said.

“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, introduced 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.

Rudd 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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