Americans love their food, and they are able to buy (almost) anything imaginable at restaurants, farms, markets, and other stores, but some foods are currently banned. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned many foods from being sold or eaten in the United States due to their not being safe for consumption. Here is a list of the top ten foods that are surprisingly banned in the US.
Haggis is a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep, mixed with beef and oatmeal and seasoned with onions, cayenne peppers, and other spices. This mixture is then packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland and is usually accompanied by turnips and mashed potatoes.
Haggis is currently banned from being imported into the United States. In 1971, the US banned all foods that are made from animal lungs. Scotland has made several efforts to influence the US into lifting the ban on haggis and changing federal food safety regulations, but they have come up short each time.
9. Beluga Caviar
The beluga sturgeon is the largest of the sturgeons, weighing more than 900 kilograms (2,000 lb) and measuring more than 4.5 meters (15 ft) long. It can take up to 25 years for the female beluga to mature and produce eggs. Beluga caviar varies in color from light to dark grey and is the largest-grain caviar. Their pearls are the most delicate and have a mild, buttery flavor.
In 2005, the United States banned beluga caviar from further import due to overfishing. The US was consuming about 60 percent of the world’s beluga caviar, which is considered the king of caviar due to costing $200 per ounce. Beluga caviar was so desirable that the available stock declined by 90 percent. Overfishing of the beluga can be traced back to poaching and the black market.
8. Unpasteurized Milk
Unpasteurized milk, or raw milk, is milk that comes directly from an animal’s udder and hasn’t been heat-treated, or pasteurized, to kill any bacteria. Raw milk carries a higher risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses than pasteurized milk. Children are at a higher risk for these diseases because their immune systems have not yet fully developed.
The FDA banned the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk in the US, but states are able to adopt their own laws of the sale of raw milk. Drinking and consuming unpasteurized milk is legal in all 50 states, but 20 states prohibit the sale of raw milk. Thirteen states allow the sales of raw milk in retail stores, and 17 allow the sale of raw milk only on the farm in which it was produced.
There is currently a movement in the United States to consume organic and locally grown foods. Some believe that raw milk is more nutritious and provides “good bacteria” for the body. Many of the states that allow the selling of raw milk require a warning label informing consumers about the risk of pathogens that can be found in the milk.
7. Sassafras Oil
Sassafras oil is extracted from the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. The tree stands anywhere from 6 to 12 meters (20–40 ft) tall, with slender branches and orange- and brown-colored bark. The leaves are oval and can grow 8 to 18 centimeters (3–7 in) long, and the flowers are small and of a greenish or yellow color.
Many Native American tribes used sassafras for various medicinal purposes, including to help with acne, urinary disorders, and fevers. Sassafras can also be found in Chinese medications to help treat rheumatism and trauma. The twigs from the plants were once used as toothbrushes, and sassafras was also used as an early anesthetic and disinfectant. Sassafras was found in many distinct foods in the US, and it was known as a key ingredient in many root beers and teas.
The FDA prohibits all sassafras bark, oil, and safrole as flavorings or food additives. Sassafras is no longer considered safe for human consumption, and it was banned in 1979, after research linked it to cancer. Also, when too much sassafras oil is consumed, poisoning can possibly occur.
The ortolan is a bird in the bunting family of Emberizidae. It is a tiny songbird that weighs less than an ounce. This bird was once a controversial meal in France and is cooked for eight minutes and served with the head attached. The bird is meant to be eaten whole, including the head and bones.
Killing and selling the ortolan was banned in France in the 1990s, but poachers continued to catch the small bunting and sell it to local restaurants. France’s League for the Protection of Birds claimed that the ortolan population dropped 30 percent even after the ban, forcing the government to enact more stringent enforcement in 2007.
The killing of the rare bird is less controversial than the barbaric way in which it is killed. These birds are trapped during their migratory season and kept in covered cages. The ortolan eats more at night, so the covering the cages will encourage them to gorge on grain, to the point where their bodies double in size. It is said that ancient emperors would pluck out the birds’ eyes, tricking them to thinking it was night so that they would eat more. The ortolans are ultimately thrown alive into a vat of Armagnac, which both drowns and marinates them.
France now strictly enforces the ban on killing ortolans. The killing, cooking, or smuggling of the bird anywhere in the European Union or the United States is currently a crime.
5. Casu Marzu
Casu marzu, translated into English, means “rotten cheese,” and if the rotten part isn’t already bad enough, it’s also known as “maggot cheese.” This Sardinian cheese is typically soaked in brine, smoked, and left to ripen in a cheese cellar. Then cheese makers set it outside uncovered, allowing cheesing flies to lay eggs inside it.
The eggs hatch into maggots, which start feeding on the cheese. They produce enzymes that promote fermentation and cause fats within the cheese to decompose. The cheese becomes supersoft and leaves a burn on the tongue when eaten. Local Sardinians say the cheese is only good when the maggots are still moving. If the maggots are dead, then the cheese has gone bad and is too toxic for consumption.
Casu marzu is not in compliance with European Union hygienic standards and has been declared illegal. It is also illegal in the United States because it is unpasteurized and has more than six mites per square inch. (The microscopic bugs live on the surface of aged cheese.)
4. Shark Fins
The act of shark finning was deemed illegal by the United States. Finning, the act of cutting off a shark’s fin, is one of the greatest threats that sharks face. After a shark is finned, it is thrown back in the sea, where it may drown, bleed to death, or be eaten by other animals.
There is a large market for shark fins to make shark fin soup, which is a popular and luxurious Asian dish. Shark fins are very popular in Asia and can be found in food stores, pharmacies, and fishing villages. The demand for the shark fins has led to sharks being targeted solely for their fins, but don’t expect to try that soup in the US anytime soon.
3. Ackee Fruit
Ackee appears to be a very delightful and delicious fruit, but one must be very careful before eating. If the fruit is improperly eaten, it can cause vomiting or even lead to a coma or death. In Jamaica, the harmful effects of ackee fruit are known as Jamaican Vomiting Sickness.
The ackee fruit’s protective pod turns red and naturally opens, revealing the edible portion, which is the yellow arilli that surround the toxic black seeds. The fruit can be tried in Jamaica paired with codfish, which is a popular national dish.
The ackee fruit is originally native to West Africa but was brought to Jamaica in 1778. It is Jamaica’s national fruit. The FDA banned all ackee but would later allow the sales of frozen or canned ackee. The import of fresh ackee is still banned.
2. Mirabelle Plum
The mirabelle plum is the small, oval-shaped, and dark yellow fruit grown on a mirabelle plum tree. It is known to be sweet and full of flavor and is used in fruit preserves and dessert pies. The fruit can mostly be found in France, where 70 percent of the world’s mirabelle production occurs.
The production of the mirabelle plum has been supported since 1996 by a Protected Geographical Indication to help guarantee is authenticity.
It has been promoted as a high-quality regional product, and the protected origin designation makes it almost impossible to get this fruit into the US.
1. Kinder Surprise Chocolate Eggs
Kinder Surprise Chocolate Eggs are a widely popular candy sold across the world—except in the United States. There are more than 3.5 billion Kinder Surprise Eggs sold each year, with no help from US markets. The Kinder Surprise Egg is a hollow chocolate egg that holds a plastic capsule which contains a toy. The toy is usually a simple collectible, like a tiny bike or a miniature beach bucket and pail.
Kinder Surprise Eggs have always been illegal in the Unites States. A 1938 regulation made it illegal to sell any candy that contains a non-nutritive object. Despite efforts to import the chocolate egg into the US, the federal government has continued its ban and recalled the item each time it was introduced. If you haven’t been lucky enough to try it yet, don’t worry, because Kinder just announced this May that they will be selling a similar chocolate egg in the US market!
Kinder will introduce the Joy Egg, which is a more recent version that separates the toy from the chocolate, as it is comprised of two sealed halves. The new egg meets FDA regulations and is compliant with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It won’t be exactly the same as the Kinder Surprise, but fans across the US will be able to get their fix.