The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that the food we purchase at restaurants and supermarkets is safe to eat. While it’s generally a good idea to enforce strict guidelines to help keep harmful bacteria and parasites out of our kitchens, not every country operates in this way.
Over the years, the FDA has added plenty of items to its list of banned foods—including those from other countries. While these foods might be deemed safe enough in other nations, they’re too risky for America. Here are just 20 items that are banned from the United States. Would you eat any of these?
1. Kinder Surprise eggs: These treats from Europe were banned in the United States because of a law stating that edible food cannot contain inedible products inside them. Kinder Surprise eggs contain small plastic toys inside of their chocolate shells that could be, essentially, choking hazards.
2. Haggis: Mix a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs with spices, oatmeal, and suet, then stuff it into the animal’s stomach and serve it; that’s the traditional Scottish dish known as haggis. Unfortunately, lung is one of the organs banned from importation into the United States.
3. Casu Marzu: The ban on this cheese is for one obvious reason: it’s made using live maggots! On the island of Sardinia, Pecorino Romano cheese is intentionally infested with thousands of these creatures to supposedly “enhance” the flavor.
4. Ackee fruit: This is Jamaica’s national fruit, and it’s used in plenty of authentic dishes. However, if you consume the fruit before it ripens properly, it can actually kill you. If you’re craving this fruit, just try its relative—lychee—instead!
5. Foie gras: While foie gras isn’t banned throughout the entire United States, California outlawed it due to the unethical treatment of geese during the process. They’re force-fed through tubes to increase the size of their livers.
6. Unpasteurized milk: Also known as “raw” milk, most states do not allow for its production because the pasteurization process is vital in removing toxic microbes from the milk.
7. Shark fins: Shark fin soup is a popular Chinese delicacy, but the fins are banned in the United States because overfishing is destroying the shark population around the world. Stick to fish sauce if you want that extra oomph in your dish!
8. Beluga caviar: This caviar comes from the Caspian Sea, but importing beluga sturgeon eggs into the United States is prohibited due to overfishing and the dwindling whale population. Don’t worry: there are plenty of other legal types of caviar to satisfy you.
9. Sassafras oil: While the oil itself isn’t necessarily harmful, the safrole and shikimol chemicals found inside it can be used in the production of the psychoactive drug MDMA, the active chemical component of the street drug Ecstasy.
10. Pig’s blood cake: This traditional Taiwanese dish consists of pork blood and sticky rice. Unfortunately, you wont find it anywhere in the United States due to sanitary precautions regarding the blood used in its production!
11. Absinthe: Absinthe was banned entirely in the United States until 2007, when the government started to allow its importation… so long as the psychoactive chemical thujone was left out of its production. Is it even worth drinking at that point?
12. Mirabelle plums: Although some varieties of Mirabelle plums are grown in the United States, the authentic fruits from Lorraine, France, are banned as part of a trade agreement that doesn’t allow their importation. That’s because the shipping process jeopardizes their quality!
13. Redfish: This aquatic creature became quite popular for its flavor during the 1980s, but now Mississippi is the only state that sells it at market. Redfish is banned simply so the species’ population can be replenished.
14. Lazy Cakes: These simple brownies may seem ordinary, but they actually contain the sleep-inducing agent melatonin. Arkansas banned the snacks because it’s too easy for young children, who could be affected by melatonin, to get their hands on them.
15. Puffer fish: Also known as “fugu,” puffer fish requires a special license to prepare, and only a handful of restaurants in the United States carry it. If improperly handled, the poison in the fish causes asphyxiation.
16. Sea turtles: These beautiful creatures have been endangered for quite some time now, so the United States strictly forbids their importation or exportation. The ban on sea turtles for consumption is an easy one to support!
17. Queen conch: Since 2003, it’s been illegal to import this crustacean because of the species’ low numbers. If you want queen conch, you have to travel outside of the country where it’s far less regulated.
18. Bird’s nest soup: This delicacy started in China, but today it’s even rare to find it within those borders. The main ingredient in the soup is bird saliva, which can carry a plethora of harmful bacteria.
19. Ortolan: This French delicacy has been banned due to the unethical treatment of the ortolan birds used. Not only are the birds endangered, but they’re cooked alive in brandy and then served whole!
20. Bushmeat: Bushmeat is any meat from animals hunted and slaughtered in Africa, including gorillas, antelopes, and elephants. Not only is it banned because it can carry fatal diseases, but it encourages illegal trading.
Would you ever eat any of these banned foods? Even a daring eater, you’d really have to go out of your way to taste them!
Share these banned foods with your friends below!