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Minnesota State Fair pulls controversial doughnuts after backlash

Side of syringes with dessert, anyone?
/ Source: TODAY

Every year, state fairs vie for which one can come up with the craziest new foods, usually of the deep-fried, sugar-coated and totally over-the-top variety. In the past, fairs have rolled out everything from deep-fried sticks of butter to Oreo-flavored beer.

This year, the Minnesota State Fair, which starts August 22 and runs through early September, may have taken its crazy offerings a step too far with an injectable doughnut that came with syringes for inserting various fillings.

The Wingwalker Donut Flight from a fair vendor called The Hangar featured deep-fried cake doughnut holes accompanied by three syringes (that resembled hypodermic needles) with fillings that included Bavarian cream, chocolate custard and Minnesota lingonberry jam. Instead of coming pre-filled, the doughnuts would have to be injected by the customers themselves, presumably giving them a more active dessert experience.

The Minnesota State Fair is already known for its annual roster of wild foods. In 2017, Al Roker even visited to try them out in person.

After the fair announced the new food item on June 18, there was a vocal outcry after a Minneapolis man started an online petition protesting the dish. His main concern was that the waste generated by customers tossing out hundreds of plastic syringes a day was completely unnecessary and sent a poor message about sustainability to the public.

"The waste generated (three syringes times thousands and thousands of orders) over the 10 day fair run is absurd," Jason Holtz wrote in his petition on "Filled donut [sic] holes sound like a fine idea. Fill them for us from a big dispenser that's not going to last centuries in the ocean or landfill."

In addition to the problem of plastic waste piling up, Holtz noted that "the image conveyed by syringes being cool and containing treats, not to mention being littered around on the ground is not one we should be wanting to promote."

As of Monday morning, more than 3,800 people had signed the petition.

Other folks online had mixed reactions to the "injectable doughnuts," too.

Many people agreed that the elaborate treat was wasteful, or that it promoted a bad message about the use of needles.

The backlash was big enough for the Minnesota State Fair to take notice and, within two days of the petition's posting, the fair folks removed the syringe doughnuts from the menu.

"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," a spokesperson for the Minnesota State Fair shared in a statement sent to TODAY Food via email. The statement was also posted online.

Fair-goers will still be able to get doughnut holes from The Hangar, but they'll have to "dunk" the doughnuts in each of the fillings. The revamped item will also be served in a compostable tray.

Additionally, the owners of The Hangar will change all of its food service trays and containers to those made out of a post-consumer recycled paper product, as well as utilize utensils made from wood, instead of plastic forks and knives.

The Minnesota State Fair has recently added yet another item to its decadent new food menu and it's called the Tailspin: It's a hash brown waffle topped with french-fried onions, coleslaw, pulled pork, elote (Mexican street corn), Oaxaca cheese and peppery spices, all drizzled in a tangy barbecue sauce.

Despite the swift backlash to The Hangar's dish, it certainly was not the first of its kind.

A similar syringe-and-doughnut combo is available at Clinton Hall in New York City, as well as at The Rolling Pin in Toronto, Topgolf locations and BomboBar in Chicago. Each restaurant provides a way to inject coffee or another filling into a fried pastry.

Doughnut-filling syringes are even available to buy on Amazon.

Minnesota isn't the first state to have offered an injectable-type food item.

In 2016, the State Fair of Texas offered smoke-crusted BBQ beef brisket balls that came with a pipette of barbecue sauce to inject right into the meat. That dish was not taken off the fair's menu but, to be fair, that syringe looked nothing like a hypodermic needle.