If you’re like me, you probably love food. Like, you probably love food to an unhealthy degree. I think the best part about going out is finding a nice buffet and just grabbing one of absolutely anything.
But, there are some items that aren’t on the menu, and never will be because they are banned in the United States. Don’t believe me? Well, you might be surprised on what foods are on the list that you’ll never see in the U S of A.
The mirabelle plum is a small, sweet plum primarily grown in the north-eastern region of France. The region has the ideal climate and soil composition of the mirabelle plum, which is why 80 percent of its global production comes from there.
What can be so bad about this adorable fruit? Well, nothing actually. But still, there’s a federal ban on import of the mirabelle plum since it has a “protected origin-destination,” according to some sources. This means that the FDA has a trade agreement with France to protect their market, which makes obtaining these little guys nearly impossible for Americans.
Though foie gras isn’t banned all across the U.S., California, in particular, has a problem with it. Foie gras is a specially fattened goose or duck liver that is considered a French delicacy.
It is banned in California and its consumption is quite controversial — even in France — primarily on ethical grounds. Some foie gras producers are completely inhumane, as the ducks or geese are kept stationary in cages and force-fed through tubes multiple times a day to fatten their livers. However, there are more humane ways of producing foie gras, which is why it isn’t completely banned.
Edible bird’s nests are created by swiftlets whose saliva solidifies to create their nests. These nests have been harvested for human consumption, primarily in China, where it has been used in their cuisine for hundreds of years. Legend has it that regular consumption of these nests promotes good health and long life. The most popular way to consume it is in bird’s nest soup.
Swiftlets have since been determined an endangered species, which is why there are tight restrictions on bird nest consumption, even becoming rare — and therefore pretty expensive — in China. In addition to the environmental concerns, there are also worries over importing the avian flu through these nests.
The sale of Redfish, or red drum as it is known in some regions, has been banned in the U.S., with the exception of Mississippi. In the 1980s, chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun-style blackened redfish because so popular, that consumption of redfish surged and as a result, overfishing has nearly led to its extinction.
While you can fish for the red drum for personal use, you cannot fish for it in federal and most state waters and sell it for profit. This is in an attempt to regrow its population.
Haggis is a traditional Scottish delicacy. Characterized as a savory pudding, it primarily consists of sheep’s pluck, which is a combination of its heart, liver, and lungs. Haggis is traditionally encased and cooked in the sheep’s own stomach, though in modern times artificial casings and puff pastry have been used.
The U.S. has banned the importation of haggis due to the fact that it contains sheep’s lung. All animal lungs are banned by the USDA since bodily fluids such as phlegm and stomach acid could enter the lungs during the slaughtering process.
Kinder Surprise or Kinder Eggs are a popular European candy consisting of a hollow chocolate egg that usually contains a small toy on the inside. Traditionally, the toy requires some minor assembly.
Kinder eggs have been banned in the U.S. for safety concerns since children who weren’t careful ran the risk of choking on the toy inside while consuming the chocolate. For this very reason, Nestlé Wonder Balls were temporarily put out of production, until they decided to replace the toy inside with more candy. Though Kinder Surprise eggs are legally sold in Canada and Mexico, it is still illegal to import them across the U.S. border.
Shark fins are also illegal to consume in the U.S. Traditionally served as shark fin soup in China and Vietnam, consumption of the soup dates all the way back to the 14th century.
Sale and possession of shark fins have been effectively banned in the U.S. both for ethical reasons and to preserve the shark population. Consumption of shark fin is illegal due to the way it is harvested. “Shark finning” typically includes harvesting a shark’s fin and throwing the rest of the animal back into the ocean, dead or alive. Because of this, consumption of shark fin has gone down significantly in modern-day China.
Sassafras is a tree native to the eastern U.S. Native Americans. Early settlers have long used it as an herbal supplement as well as in many recipes ranging from gumbos to tea. It is particularly popular for being the primary flavor of traditional root beer.
However, the FDA banned the use of sassafras bark or oil as a food flavoring or additive. In the mid-to-late 19th century, studies have shown that safrole, a major component of sassafras oil, contains high amounts of carcinogens that can pose a hazardous threat if consumed in high amounts.
Ackee is a fruit that hails from the same family as the lychee. Native to West Africa, Ackee is most commonly found and consumed in Jamaica and is featured in various Caribbean cuisines. Unfortunately, however, the U.S. maintains a ban on imports of ackee fruits and products.
Ackee is high in the toxin hypoglycin A, which diminishes in the edible portion of the fruit when it is fully ripened. The same can’t be said for the rind and the seeds of the fruit, which retain high concentrations of the toxins that can be hazardous if the fruit is not processed properly.
Casu marzu is a cheese native to the Italian region of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. The production of casu marzu is so alarming that it is not only banned in the U.S., but the European Union has outlawed it as well.
Casu marzu is a type of pecorino cheese that has been left out for cheese flies to lay their eggs in. Once the eggs hatch, thousands of maggots make their way around the cheese, digesting and breaking down the fats so that the cheese is fermented. Casu marzu aficionados eat the cheese with the maggots still crawling around. Only when the maggots have died is the cheese considered unconsumable.
Fugu is a Japanese pufferfish traditionally served as sashimi and featured in other Japanese cuisines. While it is considered a delicacy, fugu consumption is incredibly risky due to the fact that it is lethally poisonous. Fugu fish have high amounts of tetrodotoxin and if the fish isn’t properly prepared and rid of the toxins, there can be fatal consequences.
Fugu’s native Japan even has tight restrictions on its availability and while it isn’t necessarily banned in the U.S., there are very few restaurants where you can try it. The European Union went the safe route and has banned fugu sales altogether.
Beluga caviar is caviar comprised of the roe (fish eggs) of the beluga sturgeon, a fish native to the Caspian and Black Seas that is unrelated to the beluga whale. Beluga caviar is exclusive and incredibly expensive, with market prices reportedly starting at around $7,000.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. has banned imports of beluga caviar and other beluga products since the beluga sturgeon is listed internationally as an endangered species. Though these fish can live over 100 years, their populations have diminished considerably due to poaching and overharvesting. Because the producing counties failed to apply regulations on conservation efforts, trade with these regions has been suspended.
There is so much controversy around raw, unpasteurized milk in the U.S. but it isn’t completely illegal. Pro-raw milk constituents argue that there are many benefits to its consumption, but their detractors say that you also run the risk of ingesting potentially harmful microbes and bacteria.
As a result, half of America has a ban on unpasteurized milk but it isn’t necessarily that hard to get your hands on. There are laws that state you can get it directly from farmers, while some states allow its sale in stores so long as they are properly labeled to let the consumer know what they’re getting themselves into.
Absinthe used to be banned in the U.S. — sort of. As the 20th century came around, absinthe was believed to cause hallucinations and sometimes death. As a result, absinthe was banned for nearly 100 years.
The reason for this was because absinthe contained trace amounts of the toxic chemical thujone, which if ingested in high concentrations can lead to convulsions and delirium. But it wasn’t until modern-day scientists realized absinthe didn’t actually contain enough thujone to be fatal that it has become “legal” again. It was never technically illegal, but for some time most people weren’t aware of the technicalities surrounding its regulation to know this.
In 2007, the U.S. banned horse meat after it stripped funds for federal horse slaughter inspections, though that probably didn’t need to happen for horse meat consumption to come to a halt. Compared to other parts of the world, eating horse meat is taboo in a majority of the U.S. and many western countries.
Historically, horses have become regarded as companions and a necessary tool for warfare. Therefore eating horse is comparable to eating dog, which despite being unthinkable in America, some parts of the world also do. Still, horse meat is seen as a delicacy in some countries and some say that it’s healthier than eating beef.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bans the import, sale, and consumption of bushmeat. Bush refers to the forest and savannahs of rural Africa, so bushmeat consists of animals such as monkeys, apes, antelopes, and elephants. Though hunting these animals is a necessity for rural African communities who rely on bushmeat for sustenance, there are people who poach and hunt these animals inhumanely for personal gain.
Believe it or not, illegal bushmeat trade is a problem in North America and U.S. Customs reportedly confiscated upwards of 69,000 bushmeat items in the mid-2000s. Not only is this inhumane, but people could possibly contract dangerous diseases not common in the U.S. from eating bushmeat.
In Florida, it is illegal to harvest Queen Conch, a large marine mollusk whose soft-bodied animal falls in the same category as clams and oysters. Despite its ban, the U.S. accounts for 80 percent of the world’s consumption of internationally traded queen conch that mostly comes from the Caribbean.
Queen conch primarily grows in shallow waters and coral reefs. That, combined with its slow maturation rate have made this animal susceptible to over-fishing and as a result, is considered an endangered species. Even though you can’t legally harvest it in Florida, you can still find other ways to get your hands on some imported conch.
Mangosteen is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, the fruits of which are harvested and coveted for their numerous health benefits. Until recently, mangosteen has been banned from import into the U.S. because there were concerns over introducing the Asian fruit fly into North America.
The ban on mangosteen imports has since been lifted, but the imports must undergo an irradiation process to ensure that no foreign insects or animals will make it into the country.
An ortolan is a tiny songbird whose average weight is only one ounce. Ortolans are primarily found in the warmer climates of Europe around the south of France, where their consumption is quite controversial since they’ve become a vulnerable species at the hands of poachers. Also, their capture and killing are considered by many to be cruel as they are kept in dark traps, gorged with grain to fatten up, then drowned in brandy which also marinates them before they are cooked.
It is apparently a ritual to eat these birds with a napkin covering your head to hide the fact that you are partaking in something considered very shameful.
Sodium cyclamate is an artificial sweetener that is banned in the U.S., but oddly enough is completely legal and safe for consumption in most countries in the rest of the world.
In 1970, the FDA ordered a total ban on the use of sodium cyclamate because inconclusive research found that the sweetener had traces of carcinogens in it. Because it is safe to eat in other countries, there have been fruitless campaigns for U.S. agencies to reconsider its legality.
The Cadbury chocolate found everywhere in the United States is not the same as what is in England. The two versions aren’t manufactured by the same company and have entirely different recipes! Surprisingly, Hershey owns the rights to Cadbury’s U.S. production.
When Hershey’s bought the rights in the 1980’s, the company banned the import of chocolate produced in the U.K. The two distinct forms of Cadbury have been hotly debated over the years. British loyalists swear there is a noticeable flavor difference between the chocolate they grew up and what they have tried in America.
Unpasteurized cheese, like unpasteurized milk, is banned in the United States. Imported cheese must adhere to strict guidelines, or it will not be sold in stores. Only cheese made with pasteurized milk, or ones aged 60 days, are allowed to cross the border.
The ban means that popular cheeses like brie or camembert cannot be sold in the in the country. That brie you’ve had at parties isn’t authentic! You’ll have to travel to Europe to experience the pure joy authentic cheese brings. Of course, you could also find a cheese smuggler to do the dirty work for you.
An endangered species, it should come as no surprise that sea turtles are banned as food in America. Some species of sea turtle have been on the endangered list since 1978. Restaurants caught serving turtle soup are subject to a $10,000 fine.
The worst offense comes with selling turtle eggs. Despite female turtles laying over 100 eggs at a time, less than one percent make it to the ocean. One Florida man was arrested with 92 turtle eggs. On the black market turtle eggs are worth up $30 per dozen. Now facing five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, it’s safe to say the illegal activity was not worth it.
Swans, like sea turtles, are banned in the United States, protected as an endangered species. The U.K. has similar bans on eating the bird, but for different reasons. In England, the royal family owns swans, making them illegal to eat. A long time ago swans were consumed by the upper class. Not so anymore.
Classic preparations of cooked swan included skinning the bird, then re-feathering it before service. It was served with a yellow pepper sauce. Another preparation included stuffing it with smaller birds. Farming and importing swans has been banned for decades, but a growth in numbers has some stateside groups petitioning for change.
Our next food is still available in America, just not in its original form.
Caffeinated Four Loko
Four Loko took the United States by storm when it originally came out. Full of caffeine and alcohol, the drink became known as a “blackout in a can.” According to rumors, one can had the same amount of alcohol as four can of Budweiser and had as much caffeine as two cups of coffee.
After several deaths were reported, the United States put a federal ban on the beverage. In 2014, the makers of Four Loko reached an agreement that it would not sell any version of its drink with caffeine stateside. The original version is still available overseas and is incredibly popular in China.
Pig’s Blood Cake
A delicacy in Tawain, Pig’s Blood Cake might not sound like the most appealing snack to many Americans. The primary ingredients in this delicacy are pig’s blood, soy broth, and sticky rice. The concoction is molded together and then is either steamed or fried before being coated in peanut rice.
It’s commonly served warm on a stick and sold by street vendors. Fans say that it’s a warm, sticky, and sweet to eat. The USDA supposedly banned the treat for sanitary reasons in 2010, which led to outcry. However, the following year the director of the Specialized Surveillance & Enforcement Bureau of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said he was not aware of any ban, and that as long as any food is cooked at appropriate temperatures it shouldn’t be an issue.
Uncertified Chilean Sea Bass
Due to overfishing, the Chilean Sea Bass (also known as Patagonian Toothfish) has come precariously near “endangerment” status. As a result, 24 nations including the United States banned any uncertified fish from being sold. The FDA regulates the number of Chilean sea bass that any certified fishing boats can catch.
These fish are very tasty and high in fat content, which makes them a popular delicacy. People catch them illegally and sell them at high prices, so this is one food ban that isn’t easily enforced.
“Lazy Cakes” was a brand of pre-packaged brownies that were laced with melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that regulates sleep and is found in supplements commonly taken by people with insomnia.
Unsurprisingly, the brownies caused severe drowsiness. Several children nationwide were hospitalized after eating them. As the FDA has not approved melatonin as a food ingredient, Lazy Cakes were quickly banned in certain areas including the state of Arkansas.
Now, let’s take a look at some American foods that are banned elsewhere in the world.
Salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat. The American Heart Association recommends you eat salmon or other fatty fish at least twice a week, so salmon is in high demand. Farm-raised fish are an option for people who live in the U.S, but not in Australia or New Zealand.
The reason? Farm-raised salmon is often full of toxins due to the food they are fed. Additionally, the practice of industrial salmon farming causes environmental destruction.
As of March 2018, salmon farming has also been banned in Washington State.
Brominated Vegetable Oil
Brominated vegetable oil is an emulsifying agent that’s commonly used in citrus soft drinks in the United States. But the plant-based triglyceride has been completely banned in Europe, Japan, and India due to potentially serious side effects.
Some of the potential side effects linked to brominated vegetable oil include tremors, fatigue, loss of memory, and headaches. Alternatives to brominated vegetable oil are locust bean gum or glycerol ester of wood rosin.
Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been debated in the news for years. Genetically engineered crops are big business in the United States. Corn, soybean, cotton, potatoes, canola, and papaya are all foods that are commonly genetically modified.
Europe, however, has completely banned the sale and consumption of genetically modified foods. Russia has also banned the cultivation and importation of GMO foods.
If you’re looking for a snack food with no fat, zero calories, and big taste, then olestra (brand name Olean) might sound like a miracle. The food additive was approved by the FDA in 1996 and quickly began appearing in food like Lay’s WOW! potato chips.
Not surprisingly, however, Olestra turned out too good to be true. It prevents the absorption of beneficial nutrients from food and gives people unpleasant reactions like gas and diarrhea. It’s now banned in Canada and Europe as a result.
Azodicarbonamide is an odorless, powdered chemical that is used in baking. Its primary purpose is to whiten bread. In 2004 it was discovered that when ADA breaks down, an animal carcinogen called semicarbazide is produced. Because of this finding, Australia and Europe have banned ADA as a food additive.
In the United States, it is still FDA approved at specific amounts and must be listed as an ingredient on all foods that include it. Note: ADA is also found in many yoga mats. Yum?
Artificial Food Dye
Colorful dyes can help make just about anything look tastier. Many popular foods contain artificial dyes, from breakfast cereal to pasta. In fact, dyes can be pretty difficult to avoid.
Although many dyes are permitted in foods in the United States, other countries have issued bans against them. Blue #1 and Blue #2 are banned in France, Norway, and Finland for example. Yellow #5, commonly found in Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, is now banned in Austria and Norway. Although Red #40 is thought to have carcinogenic properties, it is not currently banned.
Synthetic Bovine Hormones
Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin, referred to as rBGH and rBST, are frequently used in non-organic dairy products. The hormones are administered to cows to improve milk output. Although a spokeswoman for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council says that the hormones are not detrimental to human health, several countries have banned their use.
The European Union, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan are among the areas which prohibit the use of rBGH and rBST. The primary reason is that the hormones harm cows and can cause issues like cancer, mastitis, and diabetes in the animals.