There are a lot of foods that certain American diners can’t wrap their minds around. Take the infamously smelly durian fruit and live octopus; people live for those interesting food combinations. Some controversial foods are so surprising, though, that the United States government banned them outright.
From bizarre-sounding meats to beverages that make you hallucinate, here are 16 foods banned in some, if not all, 50 United States
Traditional Scottish haggis, a savory pudding made of sheep heart, liver, and lungs, has been banned in the U.S. since 1971.
The USDA actually determined that “livestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food,” due to the fear of the sheep-borne disease Scrapie. The affliction attacks the animal’s central nervous system.
2. Horse Meat
Consuming horse meat is not technically illegal in the United States.
In fact, it was a totally normal thing to eat up until the mid-20th century. But it’s nearly impossible to purchase now. Up until 2007, there were horse slaughterhouses scattered across the country that mainly exported horse meat to Europe. But Congress passed a measure that ultimately banned funding for the United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect horse slaughterhouses. Therefore, there’s no slaughtering and no consumption of horses happening in the U.S., nor will there be any time soon.
3. Kinder Surprise Eggs
American officials banned Kinder Surprise Eggs because they contained small, inedible toys.
As NPR reported in 2017, the Kinder Surprise Egg was considered a choking hazard due to the mix of edible and non-edible parts. But this doesn’t mean people haven’t tried smuggling Kinder Eggs into the U.S. In 2015 alone, about 30,000 Kinder Surprises were confiscated by U.S. Customs. So yes, people do take their Kinder Surprise Eggs very seriously.
Absinthe can take those who drink it on a hallucinatory trip to see the “green fairy.”
A chemical compound called thujone is responsible for these trips and thus caused massive controversy that ultimately led to the ban of absinthe in the U.S. However, due to some prior shady science, the U.S. gave absinthe another shot in the ’90s. And in 2007, the government allowed the importation of the alcoholic beverage so long as the absinthe contained less than 100 parts per million of thujone.
5. Shark Fin
Shark fin is considered a delicacy in many Asian cuisines, and it’s often added to soups and broths to boost flavor.
However, 12 U.S. states have banned the sale of shark fin due to the inhumane way shark fins are obtained. Harvesters cut the fins from live sharks and then toss the animals back into the ocean. Unfortunately, the sharks frequently die because they can’t swim properly without their dorsal. The shark finning industry puts numerous shark species in danger of extinction.
6. Sassafras Oil
Sassafras oil, which was commonly used as flavoring in tea and root beers, was banned by the FDA in 1979.
Researchers determined the oil caused cancer in rats. “While the amount of sassafras that could potentially cause cancer in humans remains unknown, one cup of strong sassafras tea is reported to contain as much as 200 mg of safrole, an amount that is four times higher than the amount considered potentially hazardous to humans if consumed regularly,” Blue Shield claimed via EverydayHealth.
7. Unpasteurized Milk
Unpasteurized or raw milk is currently banned in 20 U.S. states.
When pasteurization, the process of partial-sterilization to thwart the spread of bacteria and harmful pathogens, became a thing in the late 19th century, people realized that drinking raw milk posed a threat to consumer health. Even so, many people today believe that current farm sanitation standards make unpasteurized milk safe to drink. Do you trust it?
8. Puffer Fish
Puffer fish, known as “fugu” in Japan, is banned in the U.S. because it “may contain the potent and deadly toxins tetrodotoxin and/or saxitoxin which can cause severe illness and death,” as reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The toxin is most commonly found in the fish’s liver, gonads, intestines, and skin, and if the fish is not prepared correctly by way of freezing or cooking, the toxin can kill within two hours of consumption.
9. Casu Marzu
Casu marzu is reportedly the most dangerous cheese in the entire world.
It hails from the Italian island of Sardinia and is traditionally made with sheep’s milk, and if prepared properly, casu marzu will contain thousands of live maggots — which is why it’s banned in the U.S. Nice.
To make casu marzu, one must first heat the sheep’s milk and then let it sit for about three weeks to allow it to curdle. The crust is then cut off, thus inviting flies to enter the cheese and lay their eggs. Once that happens, the cheese is left in a dark area for about two or three months, during which the eggs hatch into larvae and begin to eat the rotting cheese.
It’s the larvae’s excrement that creates the soft texture and richness of the casu marzu.
It’s so questionable that the EU European Food Safety Authority has even banned it. Seriously… who comes up with this stuff?
10. Ackee Fruit
The FDA banned the ackee fruit, native to West Africa, Central America, and the Caribbean, because it contains the toxin hypoglycin A. When not ripened fully, the fruit contains high levels of hypoglycin A, which, if consumed, can cause severe vomiting, hypoglycemia, drowsiness, muscular exhaustion, prostration, and even coma and/or death.
11. Pig’s Blood Cake
In Taiwan, pig’s blood cake, which is made with pig’s blood and sticky rice, is a steamed snack usually served on a wooden skewer.
Its availability in the U.S. is actually debated about with some reports from Taiwan stating that it has been banned by the USDA, but it seems to be just a rumor started by a Taiwanese reporter based in Los Angeles. “I’m not aware of any formal ban,” Terrance Powell, bureau director of Specialized Surveillance & Enforcement Bureau of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told LAWeekly in 2011. “Our concern is that it is cooked to standards as far as temperature and under sanitary conditions. As long as those guidelines are followed, there is no issue with it.”
12. Mirabelle Plums
Mirabelle plums are reportedly a protected species from Lorraine, France, that are not allowed to cross into the U.S. due to some strange, unclear import laws. However, seeds have been smuggled and there are some Mirabelle plum trees scattered throughout the states. Naughty, naughty, smugglers!
13. Wild Beluga Caviar
Beluga caviar, which are the eggs from the wild beluga sturgeon harvested from the Caspian Sea basin, is an exotic food enjoyed in some nations, but is banned from the United States. Because the demand for beluga caviar got so high back in the early 2000s, beluga was threatened with extinction. Therefore, in 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the import of wild beluga caviar.
After New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme shared his recipe for blackened redfish in 1980, the rare North American fish became so popular that the species all of the sudden was endangered by the middle of the decade. In 1986, the Commerce Department shut down all redfish fisheries and limited sales to help the redfish population to rebuild.
As of today, redfish is banned in all U.S. states except Mississippi.
15. Queen Conch
“Queen conch meat is consumed domestically throughout the Caribbean and exported as a delicacy,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service International Affairs website. “Their slow growth, occurrence in shallow waters and late maturation make queen conch particularly susceptible to over-fishing, their greatest threat.”
Queen conch became an endangered species in the 1970s, and as of today, it is still illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest queen conch in the state of Florida.
16. Foie gras
One of the most recent foods on the to-ban list is foie gras, which is fatty duck liver. In 2004, California passed a law banning the sale and production of foie gras, arguing that the current way producers fatten up ducks via a feeding tube called a gavage is inhumane. After being tossed back and forth from court to court since then, the ban on foie gras was just officially reinstated in January 2019.
California may be setting the tone for other states when it comes to foie gras and it will be interesting to see if other states follow suit with a ban on the controversial dish.
We’re feeling… queasy. Sorry, but there’s no way in heck the U.S. is going to let casu marzu enter the country anytime soon (phew).