In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the foods we purchase in stores and consume in restaurants. The FDA ensures the foods we eat are safe, non-toxic, and free from bacteria and pathogens. Additionally, the U.S. government makes sure endangered species don’t show up on our plates. However, not all countries are as rigorous in assuring food quality. These 17 foods are banned in the United States, but you probably won’t miss most of them.
17. Ackee Fruit
While ackee fruit is the national fruit of Jamaica, it is illegal to import it into the United States. This fruit is safe to consume when properly ripened, but can lead to vomiting, coma, and death if consumed before ripening. The unripened fruit contains toxins called hypoglycin. These toxins can lower blood sugar, leading to dangerous levels of hypoglycemia. The edible portions are the yellow arilli, while the black seeds are always poisonous.
16. Beluga Caviar
This caviar is harvested from the Beluga sturgeon, which is a severely endangered species. In 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the importation of beluga products, including caviar, from the Caspian Sea. True caviar is specifically a product of sturgeon. However, if you enjoy the salty flavor of fish roe, you can legally enjoy delicacies such as salmon caviar, Kentucky spoonfish caviar, or Mote Marine Siberian caviar.
15. Bird’s Nest Soup
If you have a hankering for a crunchy nest made of solidified bird spit, you will be disappointed to learn this delicacy is banned in the U.S. These curious morsels are used to make the traditional Chines bird’s nest soup. Unfortunately, ingesting these nests carries a risk of contracting diseases such as Avian flu. You might want to stick with Mom’s chicken noodle soup instead.
14. Casu Marzu
While the U.S. has banned many types of unpasteurized cheese, casu marzu is in a class of its own. To make this Sardinian cheese, fly larvae are incorporated into Pecorino cheese, where they hatch into maggots. The maggots digest the cheese, fermenting it and giving it a creamy texture. To enjoy this cheese, it is consumed while the maggots are still alive.
13. Foie Gras
Although legal in other parts of the U.S., foie gras is banned in California. This delicacy is produced by force-feeding geese to enlarge their livers. While this may result in a flavorful dish, it is considered inhumane by many. While chefs and trade groups bemoan the California ban, animal rights activists continue their fight to keep foie gras off the menu in this state.Related: 9 American Foods That Have Been Banned In Other Countries
The Japanese pufferfish, fugu, can only be prepared by chefs with years of specialized training and licensing. These blowfish contain tetrodotoxin, which causes numbness, paralysis, and death. The BBC reports that since the year 2000, twenty-three people have died in Japan after ingesting fugu. After preparing this dish, chefs lock up the poisonous remains of this fish and send them off to be burned.
This Scottish pudding made from offal, the entrails and internal organs of sheep, is banned in the United States. The USDA has banned the importation of livestock lung since 1971. Traditionally, the liver, lungs, and heart of the animal are combined with oats, seasonings, and spices, then are cooked in either the animal’s stomach or a fabric bag.
10. Horse Meat
While some argue that horse meat is a viable alternative to beef, there is a ban on the importation of horse meat to the United States. While horse meat is consumed in other countries, Americans have an aversion to the slaughter and consumption of these majestic animals.Related: Potentially Harmful Additives In Junk Food
9. Lazy Cakes
These melatonin-laced brownies were banned in Arkansas. The sleep-inducing snacks are touted as “relaxation brownies” and sold under names such as Kush Cakes, Lazy Cakes, and Lulla Pies. Arkansas government officials removed them from shelves to protect children from their effects. The melatonin in the cakes is also sold as a sleeping aid.
8. Mirabelle Plums
These sweet yellow plums aren’t poisonous or endangered. However, they are grown only in Lorraine, France, and importation laws prevent them from entering the United States. Although it is difficult to get true Mirabelle plums from France, you may want to try growing your own.
This strange delicacy is made by catching ortolan, tiny songbirds. They are fattened up via force feeding and drowned in a vat of brandy before being cooked in fat. Diners place a napkin over their own heads and consume the bird whole, feet first. While some claim this expensive dish has a savory flavor of hazelnut and wild game, the cruel practices surrounding its preparation can be a turn-off. Additionally, this bird is endangered and is a protected species in the European Union.Related: Don’t Reheat These Foods in the Microwave
6. Pig’s Blood Cake
Blood and cake are two words that really shouldn’t go together. This unique item is made of congealed pig’s blood mixed with sticky rice and bathed in soy sauce. It is served with rice or on a stick. This treat comes from Taiwan, but the use of blood products means it is banned in most regions of the United States.
5. Raw Milk
The interstate sale of unpasteurized milk, known as raw milk, is banned by the FDA in the United States. The pasteurization process kills off bacteria such as Brucella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Individual states determine their own laws on the sale of raw milk. While some states do allow the sale of raw milk in stores, others allow the sale only on farms where it is produced. Other states allow the sale of raw milk only through cow-share agreements between farmers and consumers.
The popularity of blackened redfish has resulted in this species of fish becoming endangered. Red drum, found in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida and as far north as Massachusetts, is a protected game fish. Commercial fishing is not allowed in federal waters and in most states.Related: 12 Surprising Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning
3. Sassafras Oil
Once used to flavor root beer, sassafras oil has been banned by the FDA since 1960. In large quantities, the safrole contained in sassafras can be carcinogenic. If you catch sassafras listed as an ingredient on your bottle of root beer, it has probably been made using a safrole-free extract. Most root beers we enjoy today are flavored with molasses, honey, vanilla, and other flavoring agents.
2. Sea Turtles
If you want to cook up a pot of sea turtle soup, you will have to come up with a different option. Sea turtles are an endangered species and are therefore illegal to consume. Sympathy for the sea turtle’s plight isn’t the only reason to refrain from seeking them on the black market. The turtles also harbor numerous bacteria, toxins, and heavy metals that are dangerous to humans.
1. Shark Fins
The consumption of shark meat is not banned in the United States; however, “finning” is illegal. Finning is the practice of catching sharks, removing their fins, and throwing the remains back into the ocean. Currently, there are 12 states that have banned the sale of shark fins. Despite these laws, some restaurants continue to offer shark fin soup on the menu.Related: 15 Nutritious Foods You Shouldn’t Pig Out On