The FDA and the USDA are agencies that protect the US and its citizens from any food that could possibly cause harm. While many of these dishes are delicacies around the world, and no matter how tasty they might be, they are not always welcome to cross the border. Here are more 10 US Foods You Never Knew Were Illegal (Part 2)
Of all the food groups out there, seafood has seen some of the most significant changes imposed upon it. So many people around the globe eat fish and other seafood. Several sea and freshwater creatures have been over-fished to the point of being close to extinction. Now, many countries are looking at ways to stop the over-harvesting of oceans and help animal repopulation. Enter the Redfish. In 1998, The New York Times reported that Louisiana had banned the commercial catching of redfish, or Red Drum, a craze perpetuated by renowned chef Paul Prudhomme when he introduced his delectable blackened redfish in his French Quarter restaurant, K-Paul. Marine biologists discovered that only 2 percent of wild redfish were making it out into the offshore spawning stock, nearly ensuring they would go the way of the Dodo. Later, in 2001, the Times published a follow-up stating the ban was still active, and there was not much chance it would be lifted. The ban stretched down to Texas. Later the government imposed a federal ban on the entire country in the hopes of saving the redfish. For those dying to try their hand at creating Prudhomme’s recipe, farmed redfish are available, but the prohibition on commercial fishing has yet to be lifted.
9. Unpasteurized Cheese
Many people love cheese so much they would break the law to taste a slice. And some Americans have to do just that if they want to get their hands on foreign dairy. Because of the process of making cheese — and dairy in general — it can sometimes be difficult to transport these products from country to country even when they’re pasteurized. But with unpasteurized products? It’s a whole different story. The U.S. takes a strong stance against unpasteurized dairy products being sold and transported across the country, including unpasteurized milk and cheese. This means that a lot of cheeses popular in Europe are forbidden here. Only cheeses that have been aged for more than 60 days or fresh cheeses made with pasteurized milk can be imported; a regulation put in place in order to avoid bacteria found in raw milk. This means delicious cheeses like camembert and authentic brie cannot be sold within America’s borders. Because of the popularity of certain cheeses, the ban has led to smuggling rings selling unpasteurized cheese on the black market, as well as people illegally making their own cheese at home. Who would’ve thought that cheese could be such an outlaw? I just can’t picture buying cheese from some shady guy in an alley.
8. Bird’s Nest Soup
Bird’s nest soup is a meal that you may have never heard of. No doubt, this delicacy is a rarity even in its native China. Foodies looking to try this dish will have to travel to Asia and spend a pretty penny to get their hands on it. According to superstition, regularly eating this expensive soup will ensure a long, healthy life and restore youth. The main ingredient in the soup is edible bird nests made from the saliva of swiftlets. These birds are currently listed as an endangered species, making the ingredients increasingly hard to come by, as well as controversial. Banned on American soil, the bird’s nests can carry pests or infectious diseases. Still, to recreate the delicacy at home, travellers sometimes attempt to smuggle the nests into the U.S. Because swiftlets are primarily found in Southeast Asia, this is a soup that will not be found on American menus any time soon. While this delicacy may not be popular within the general US population, it is still sought-after in some of the large Chinese and Asian communities. You’ll have to book plane ticket and prepare for a long flight if you’re planning to satisfy your curiosity.
7. Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate
Sometimes food is banned purely because of business and money, and that’s what happened with Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate, as well as other Cadbury products. Cadbury is an incredibly popular chocolate company across the pond, which is bad news for fans of British chocolate who live in America. The UK chocolate giants have been going for generations. In fact, the first factory was opened way back in the early 1820s and started out producing liquid chocolate before moving on to chocolate bars and candy. While you’ll see plenty of labels bearing the Cadbury name in the US, the chocolate served stateside is completely different than the one over in the UK, thanks to different recipes. In the 1980s, Hershey bought the rights to Cadbury’s US operations and soon imposed a ban on importing Cadbury chocolate manufactured in the UK because they didn’t want to lose any money on their investment. Cadbury devotees swear the British version of the chocolate is better, but most Americans will never know it themselves unless they make the trip overseas.
6. Bushmeat and Horsemeat
The US has banned many animal products from import and even consumption. Two of the biggest animal products to be banned are Bushmeat and Horsemeat. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has banned the importation, selling, and consumption of bushmeat completely. Bushmeat comes from animals hunted and slaughtered in rural Africa, including gorillas, chimpanzees, antelopes, and elephants. Despite the bans, illegal bushmeat trading is still a problem in America. In an extensive report by Newsweek, from 2009 to 2013, United States Customs Agents confiscated over 69,000 different bushmeat items, from fruit bats to monkeys. When eating any bushmeat, you could possibly contract deadly and dangerous diseases that aren’t common in the US. Also banned is Horsemeat. It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to eat these majestic creatures, but horse meat is a fairly popular dish in other parts of the world and is eaten as happily as beef. U.S. slaughterhouses actually once supplied horse meat to many countries, but now importing the meat and the use of horse slaughterhouses are both illegal. As is the case with other animals, it’s not illegal, nor taboo, to eat horses in other countries such as China, which is one the largest markets for horse meat. But, the US has strengthened its view, and it looks set to stay the course for a very long time to come.
5. Shark Fin Soup
Believe it or not, shark fins are not entirely banned in the United States. Currently, only 12 states uphold an official ban on the sale of shark fins. However, the act of shark finning itself has been illegal in U.S. waters since the year 2000. Shark finning is considered an act of animal cruelty because it involves the slicing of fins off live sharks and then just throwing the sharks back into the water to no doubt endure a horrific demise. Still, 10 of the 12 states that banned the sale of shark fin still allow restaurants to serve the meat. Shark fin soup is actually considered to be a luxury dish in several Asian countries, especially China. The dish itself is a soup or stew in which the fins are added. The shark fins provide texture and depth to the soup but don’t actually add any flavor; the fin doesn’t have any taste and has no nutritional value. Most cooks have to actually add extra ingredients such as chicken broth in order to make the dish taste good. Because of this, and the fact that this dish is particularly harmful to dwindling shark populations, many people want to ban this dish altogether. While this has yet to happen, hopefully, shark fin soup will be a thing of the past in the near future.
4. Foie Gras
Foie Gras is a celebrated delicacy in French cuisine, but animal activist groups disapprove its production. Foie Gras is the fatty liver that comes from either ducks or geese. The liver is fattened by force-feeding the animal with grain and fat until the liver swells. As one could imagine, this is so uncomfortable for the birds that they begin to tear out their feathers or even injure one another out of distress. Even though foie gras isn’t banned nationwide, it is heading in that direction.The City Council in Chicago was the first legislative body in America to stop the unethical production of Foie Gras. They placed a ban on the production and sale of the dish from 2006-2008. More recently, the state of California officially banned the sale of the delicacy after former attempts had been challenged in previous years. New York City has also changed its perspective on foie gras. The city is currently home to about 1,000 restaurants that serve it, but the City Council has officially voted to ban the dish in 2022. It will join Australia, India, and many other places that prohibit foie gras for animal rights reasons. Soon, the making of Foie Gras will be a thing of the past, found only in history books and not slaughterhouses.
3. Sassafras Oil
Sassafras oil has always been thought of as healthy and organic. After all, it comes from Mother Nature. All parts of the Sassafras plant, including; roots, bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, and stems, have been used for centuries in medicines, food, and aromatic purposes by people. Native to the US and parts of Asia, the root bark of the sassafras plant has historically been used by Native Americans to treat illnesses including fever and rheumatism. However, given advances in technology over the years, we have been able to look at these natural ingredients a little bit closer, and it turns out, some are not as good for you as once thought. There is a compound in sassafras oil called safrole, which is a known carcinogen, meaning it has cancer-causing properties, which is why it has been banned in all forms. The FDA set a ban on sassafras oil back in the 1960s, but extracts from the plant’s roots are still legal as long as they pass through the FDA and do not contain any safrole. Interestingly, Sassafras root was once used to flavor root beer. But have no fear, they replaced it with Licorice and Sarsaparilla, so you can safely enjoy your root beer float.
In the health-conscious society we live in today, a lot of people are becoming more aware of their sugar intake and the damage it can do. Many of us have tried sugar-free diets, or at least as close to one as possible. If you’re watching your sugar intake, you have a wide variety of artificial sweeteners to reach for to sprinkle in your morning coffee. Do you want Equal, Splenda, Sweet ‘N Low, or Cyclamate? Sorry, the last one has been banned since 1969. The blog Brooklyn Brainery gave a brief history of the artificial sweetener and why it was banned. Developed in the late 1930s by Michael Svaeda, this artificial sweetener was 10-times sweeter than sugar and didn’t leave an aftertaste. However, a study was conducted claiming that Cyclamate caused bladder cancer in lab rats. Since then, the sweetener has been banned in America. It’s still approved in many other countries, including Canada and Mexico, where it’s used as the main sweetener for diet soft drinks such as Coca-Cola Light. Several scientific studies conducted after 1969 proved that Cyclamate does not cause cancer. Despite this revelation, the FDA hasn’t budged. It once considered lifting the ban, but it eventually decided against doing so.
1. Four Loko
You might remember the fairly recent hype surrounding boozy energy drinks. There was Joose and Sparks, but public enemy number one was Four Loko. Yes, they do still make this drink, but the Four Loko that was available several years ago has changed its formulation. In its heyday, rumors swirled that one can of this sugary booze drink contained twice the amount of caffeine as an 8-ounce Red Bull and as much alcohol as four cans of Budweiser! During the beverage’s peak popularity, it was banned in multiple states, and a federal ban was planned after several deaths were reported, allegedly linked to the consumption of Four Loko. The Washington Post reported that in 2014, Phusion Projects, the company behind Four Loko, made an agreement with the FDA that it wouldn’t use caffeine in any beverages sold in the United States. The original caffeinated formula, which gave it the nickname “blackout in a can,” is still sold abroad. In fact, it has a huge following in China. Apparently, young people there call it “shi shen jiu,” which essentially translates to “lose virginity liquor.” If that’s the kind of reputation this drink has, no wonder it’s banned in the US.