They’re eccentric, they’re colorful, and for a huge population of the planet, they’re restricted. While foodies from across the world are enjoying international delicacies like haggis, foie gras, or even just a nice Cadbury chocolate, they are completely banned in the US. Whether due to safety, health concerns, or other reasons, here’s the scoop behind the banning of certain international foods in the United States.
1. Kinder Surprise
Across the world, people across the generations have associated the Kinder Surprise with good childhood memories. This foil-wrapped candy contains a hollow chocolate egg that usually has a nice toy inside that needs to be assembled. Especially for a kid, it’s an absolute delight. However, American kids never got this experience.
Oddly, the Kinder Surprise was never really welcomed in the United States. This has everything to do with a law that came out in the 1930s which banned candies with non-food objects hidden inside. That said, Americans with a sweet tooth for European candy have of course smuggled them in from time to time.
2. Mirabelle Plums
When it comes to fruit, you can never go wrong with a juicy purple plum. That said, hiding away in northeastern France is a little treat that takes plums to the next level. Allow us introduce to you the mirabelle plum. At first glance, this fruit may look small and unimpressive, but it packs plenty of flavor.
The soil, climate, and region all come into play when it comes to this sweet delight. Sadly, it’s impossible to buy these beauties on American soil. So why all the buzz about a little fruit? The FDA has a federal ban on importing these plums, based on a trade agreement with France that protects the mirabelle plum market and keeps it secured in France. Stated simply, they are not to be grown on American soil.
While this doesn’t apply to the great state of Mississippi, redfish are banned from being sold throughout the rest of the United States. This goes all the way back to the 1980s when a chef by the name of Paul Prudhomme introduced the world to his recipe for Cajun-style blackened redfish.
The fish immediately spiked in popularity. Every market and restaurant wanted plenty of this redfish in their stock. Teams of fishermen would take to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic with this little guy in mind. Sadly, the fish was almost pushed to the brink of extinction. In an effort to help the redfish population grow, its sale has been banned.
4. Sea Turtles
You may well have noticed that sea turtles aren’t exactly taking beaches by storm these days. Unfortunately, these lovable creatures have been placed squarely on the endangered species list since 1973. Before then, sea turtle populations were somewhat more stable, and people were snatching them up for their meat, eggs, and even their shells.
Seeing this reptile’s population crash immediately resulted in the consumption of the turtle being a crime in the United States. If any restaurant gets caught selling turtle soup, they’ll immediately be fined $1,000. An even bigger crime is selling their eggs — people have ended up in prison with some lengthy sentences for selling turtle legs.
5. Lazy Cakes
Lazy cakes caused quite the stir when they first hit the scene. While most brownies will give you a nice sugar rush and a burst of energy, lazy cakes had the opposite effect. They lived up to their lazy title and would really mellow someone out. This had a lot to do with the melatonin dosage that was inside of each brownie.
If you had a stress-filled day or suffered from one too many anxiety attacks, one of these treats would flip your day around. Sadly, just as this brownie was turning into a sensation, kids across the nation were ending up in the hospital after eating them. To make matters worse, melatonin as a food ingredient was never approved of by the FDA. Just like that, lazy cakes were banned.
6. Cadbury Chocolate
While England’s incredibly famous Cadbury chocolate can be found practically anywhere you go in the United States, don’t think it’s anything like the version you’d be buying in London. An American Cadbury and an English Cadbury are only the same in name.
In the 1980s, the Hershey company bought the rights to Cadbury in America and immediately banned all chocolate imports that were produced in England. They even changed the recipe. There has been a great Cadbury debate between American and English loyalists throughout the years. Most British say that the Cadbury in the States is completely different from what they have across The Pond.
7. Unpasteurized Cheese
Cheese lovers in America are missing out big time on unpasteurized cheese. The United States has gone far out of its way to ban the sale of unpasteurized cheese, whether homemade or imported. When cheese is brought into the country, it has to follow a long list of strict guidelines in order to be deemed safe to sell in stores.
This means that some of the most popular cheeses like brie and camembert are absolutely forbidden. If you’re scratching your head and recalling a party where you served brie, you can be assured that it was fake. If you really want to bask in the beauty of unpasteurized cheese, you’ll need to go to Europe.
When it comes to traditional Scottish cuisine, haggis is a must. This famous dish consists of a meat pudding that’s made up of a sheep’s lungs, heart, and liver. Just in case that alone doesn’t sound appealing enough, there’s still one more stage of preparation: traditionally, this dish is encased and cooked in the sheep’s stomach.
Today, haggis is toned down slightly by being prepared in a pastry wrap that kind resembles the sheep’s stomach. That said, the hardy meal still isn’t getting past the USDA’s watchful eye. This has everything to do with the meal’s ingredients, including sheep’s lungs. In America the sale of lungs is actually banned, as they could contain bodily fluids. Hungry yet?
9. Beluga Caviar
When it comes to top-of-the-line caviar, the best is considered to be the roe produced by a beluga sturgeon. The ancient fish is native to the Caspian and Black Seas and is farmed for a caviar that has a starting price of $7,000. Only a few exclusive individuals are going to fork over the cash for that.
None of those individuals will be living in America. In the early 2000s, the beluga sturgeon swam its way onto the international endangered species list. Since then, the United States has banned any imports of the caviar. Knowing that their numbers are diminishing is especially sad when you consider that they can have a lifespan of over a hundred years.
10. Unpasteurized Milk
While unpasteurized milk isn’t banned across the entirety of the United States, it is a no-go in about half of the country. When milk is unpasteurized, it comes with a slew of amazing benefits that include healthy bacteria and probiotics, which can do wonders for the digestive system. It’s also rich in vitamins A, K, and E.
Sadly, detractors have warned that those who drink unpasteurized milk run the risk of consuming some very harmful microbes and bacteria. If one still wants to get their hands on some of this milk, they can purchase it directly from a farmer, or go to a state where it’s sold in stores.
11. Bird’s Nests
Edible bird’s nests are a huge deal in China. They have been part of the country’s cuisine for hundreds of years. They won’t eat nests made by just any birds through — we’re talking about nests made specifically by swiftlets. Unlike nests made of sticks and other materials, these birds have a unique way of building theirs, using a saliva that solidifies to create the nest.
It is believed in China that these nests promote good health and a long life. The most popular way to consume it is in bird’s nest soup. But you won’t be enjoying this meal in America anytime soon. Swiftlets have become an endangered species in recent years, and concerns of avian flu spreading through the nests are stopping these imports.
12. Bush Meat
One meat product that the United States absolutely won’t tolerate is bush meat, which is meat that is derived from wild mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. The practice is extremely popular in regions such as West and Central Africa, but also extends to many countries in Asia, like China.
While commonly practiced, eating bush meat is a huge gamble for the consumers. Not only does it often put endangered or vulnerable species in further peril, but it has led to people getting serious diseases, viruses, and a ton of other deadly parasites. If you thought that you’d go to your local international market and buy a pound of chimpanzee to go with those mashed potatoes, you can forget it.
There is a lot of exotic fruit from Africa and Asia that Americans will never be able to try and we’re truly missing out. One of these delicacies is ackee, a fruit hailing from West Africa. It’s a big hit in Jamaica, featuring broadly in local cuisine as well as throughout the rest of the Caribbean. While they get to enjoy this delicious fruit in many dishes, it’s banned in America.
Much of this has to do with the fruit having a high level of the toxin hypoglycin A. Although the toxins fade from the edible area of the fruit when it’s ripe, this isn’t true of the rind and seeds, which have such a high concentration of toxins that they are hazardous. While processing this fruit, workers have to be extremely careful.
14. Horse Meat
Americans have never really associated horses with food. For decades now we’ve seen these beasts as heroes of war, the vehicles of the Wild West, and, at worst, glue. American horses have never really needed to worry about being consumed and if they did, they don’t anymore. Eating them, long considered a taboo, was officially banned in 2007.
They did this by removing all the funds for federal horse slaughter inspections. This officially stopped the production of horse meat. While eating a horse is considered disgusting by Americans, people in other countries will never fully comprehend our distaste towards them. On a global scale, horses are considered a delicacy.
If you’re living in France and find yourself in the mood for a small meaty snack, you might just buy an ortolan to chew on. What exactly is an ortolan? Weighing about an ounce, it’s a small songbird that can be found in southern France and other warmer regions of Europe. Despite them being delicious, a lot of controversy surrounds the consumption of these little guys.
The way these birds are captured and made ready for consumption is seen as cruel. They are kept in dark traps, overfed grain, and then placed in brandy to marinate in. Not only are they banned in the United States, but in past years, the French government began severely restricting their hunting, as the bird’s population numbers crashed.
Fugu is that one fish in the sea who didn’t get invited to those hot new sushi joints in America and Europe. The adorable fugu pufferfish is largely banned in America and completely banned from the European Union. This has much to do with the little guy’s high level of tetrodotoxin, which makes him lethally poisonous.
The notorious fish even has tight restrictions in its native land of Japan, although its flesh is enjoyed by thousands there on a daily basis. However, it has to be prepared in an extremely careful manner to assure that nobody eating it gets poisoned. Chefs must learn how to master detecting and removing certain organs that contain the toxin, as even a microdose is lethal.
17. Queen Conch
If you have a soft spot for clams and oysters, you’d definitely get a kick out of trying a queen conch. The soft-bodied mollusk inside this gorgeous and highly-prized pink shell is the stuff that a foodie’s dreams are made of. Just a short way away from the US Mainland, in the Bahamas, conch fritters and chowders are all the rage.
However, this delicious treat is banned in America because of its place on the endangered species list. If one decides to harvest this animal for commercial and recreational purposes, they could be looking at some serious jail time or a fine.
18. Foie Gras
Foie gras, fatty liver, has been the center of its fair share of controversy in recent years. It has very little to do with the health benefits of the dish, but everything to do with how the goose or duck is treated during preparation. Traditional foie gras production is considered quite cruel to the poor animals.
Ducks and geese are usually held in cramped stationary cages and force-fed through rough tubes multiple times a day. The only reason for this is to fatten up their livers. This has caused protest amid some animal rights groups, even in France where the dish originates from. That said, it isn’t banned everywhere in the United States, as there are more humane ways of fattening a goose or duck liver.
19. Casu Marzu
If you’re a cheese enthusiast with a taste for strong cheese, you’re going to feel downright cheated about the American ban on casu marzu cheese. This rare cheese, originating from the Italian island of Sardinia, is even garnering heat in Europe these days — and this has everything to do with how it’s produced.
The pecorino cheese is left out in the open for flies to have their way with. Fly larvae go to work on the cheese, and through the process of their digestion, the fats in the cheese are broken down, resulting in a product that is well-fermented. Understandably, this concept is considered a no-go by US health standards.
Sassafras trees can be found all over much of the eastern United States and were used extensively by various Native American peoples. Early settlers used the tree and its oils as an herbal supplement and added it to many dishes for the sake of flavor. People today will know it best as the flavor behind traditional root beer.
Its popularity dwindled significantly in the late 19th century, as studies revealed that safrole, which is one of the biggest components found in sassafras oil, had a high concentration of carcinogens. If consumed in large portions, it could easily be hazardous. This ultimately resulted in the FDA banning the use of sassafras oil in food.
21. Artificial Food Dye
If you want to make something dull look extremely tasty, don’t hesitate to whip out the colorful dye. Many foods have dye in them just for the sake of higher sales. One of the best examples is in cereals. While the United States allows some dyes to slip on by, others are banned.
However, there are many countries out there that have in fact issued bans against all food coloring. For example, Austria and Norway have a ban on yellow food dye, while blue is banned in France. Interestingly enough, the red color dye isn’t banned anywhere at the moment.
22. Pig’s Blood Cake
In a similar category of foods as blood sausage or black pudding, pig’s blood cake is one of Taiwan’s signature treats. Many people in the United States would be turned off by the name alone. And yes, its name says it all; this is not a euphemism.
Pig’s blood cake is a mixture of rice, soy broth, and of course, pig’s blood. Street vendors all over Taiwan fry or steam this mix-up, cut into a square shape, and slide it onto the end of a stick. Back in 2010, the USDA banned the treat from being sold in the United States due to sanitary reasons.
23. Shark Fin Soup
At one point, shark fin soup might have been widely available here in the United States. As of the 2020s, you’re going to have to look quite a bit harder to find it, as the popular Chinese dish has been banned in twelve states, including California.
The method of getting these fins is considered incredibly cruel, and the sharks that fishermen harvest the fins from often are just left finless once the fin has been extracted. Even huge chefs like Gordon Ramsay have shown their disapproval for the practice. He said in an interview, “It’s without a doubt, the worst act of animal cruelty I’ve ever seen.”
24. Whale Meat
When we think of whales in the United States, we usually picture a whale-watching tour out in the harbor, or, conversely, a sad Shamu performing tricks at SeaWorld. However, on the other side of the Pacific in Japan, whales are considered a food item, no different from fish, sharks, and squids.
Anyone who fancies a piece of whale meat will not be able to locate it nearly anywhere inside the United States. Whale meat is illegal in many other countries, too, and one can’t even have imported. However, there is a loophole around this law: with strict quotas, it’s actually legal for fishermen from Alaska and Washington, primarily from Native American nations, to hunt certain species of whales.
Taking things all the way over to Southeast Asia, you’ll find the delectable mangosteen. These sweet-as-candy fruits are treasured for their many health benefits. For many years, Americans weren’t able to enjoy this amazing fruit. Most of this stemmed from fears that the Asian fruit fly would hitch a ride over to North America through an import of the fruit.
As of 2007, those fears were thrown out the window and the mangosteen is welcomed to everyone across the country, though it’s exceedingly rare. That being said, even if it’s now legal, each and every piece goes through a very rigorous inspection for foreign insects. It is subjected to irradiation to kill microorganisms — but that can also kill some of the vitamins and the taste.
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