Top 10 Banned Foods

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We are free to pick and choose what we want to eat each day, thanks to grocery stores and restaurants, but imagine not being able to eat a certain type of food because it was banned in your country.

Many countries around the world have a federal organization that deals with banned substances, including food. In the U.S. it is called the Food and Drug Administration. Here is a list of ten foods you won’t see on the shelf at your grocery store:

10. Uncertified Chilean Sea Bass (Patagonian Toothfish)


Why It’s Banned
At first, the uncertified Chilean sea bass was banned by 24 nations, including the U.S. due to the fact that it was extremely popular in restaurants as well as in the home and many feared it would become endangered. The fish is known for having flaky white flesh and a high fat content, which makes it tasty. Today, the fish is banned in even more countries due to the fact that it has become over-fished.

Does It Really Stick?
Of course this doesn’t stick as well as many would hope. We all know something that’s rare is seen as a prize possession. Those who are able to catch Chilean sea bass often sell them illegally at extremely high prices. Farmers also raise them in fish farms. Though not banned everywhere, many countries have a limit on who can import the fish. One must be certified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before being able to legally provide the fish.

Want to Try It?
If you’re just interested in trying Chilean sea bass, you can surely find some that has been MSC-certified.

9. Foie Gras


Why It’s Banned
Foie gras is a delicacy made out of duck or goose liver. It is banned in Turkey, the European Union, and Israel due to a process called force-feeding. To make foie gras, birds are force-fed corn mash or some other type of food about 8 days before they are slaughtered in order to enlarge the liver and give it a fatty consistency. Many see this process as extremely cruel and harmful to the animal, as its body is not accustomed to eating so much food naturally in the wild. In 2005 foie gras was banned in Chicago, but the ban was lifted in 2008. Many states within the U.S. have attempted to have foie gras banned, but none have succeeded as of yet.

Does It Really Stick?
Yes and no. In the U.S., you can easily find foie gras if you visit the right restaurant. In other countries that ban the food, it may be much harder to find it. It’s not banned in the US right now, so there are farmers that own goose or duck farms and will force-feed them in order to have foie gras. Today the practice of force-feeding to have foie gras is widespread.

Want to Try It?
Find a local restaurant that serves foie gras and you’re ready to go. If you’re a little bit more daring (and rich), make your way to France where the dish originated and today is still seen as an important part of French cuisine. China is also the ideal place to visit to find this meal.

8. Shark Fins


Why It’s Banned
Though still in the process of being banned world wide, the slicing of shark fins is now banned in Scottish waters, as well as UK waters. In Hawaii, the practice is banned entirely due to the fact that 60,000 sharks were found dead each year. The practice, often seen as barbaric, has been banned in countries because it is seen as cruel and brutal and many species of rare sharks are becoming endangered, or even extinct. Shark fins are often used in shark fin soup which is seen as a luxury meal in most Asian countries. These sharks are also finned in Mexico, U.S., and U.K. waters.

Does It Really Stick?
As of now, it’s safe to say that a shark is finned each day. The laws banning the practice in larger countries are somewhat new and are still being put into place. Many times this practice goes unseen, as fisherman in random places will catch the shark, bring them to the shore or on the boat, cut off their fins, and put them back into the water, where they ultimately die.

Want to Try It?
If you’re looking to make Jaws your dinner, you’ll easily find shark fins offered in Asian countries, especially China. You could also travel to Mexico, where the shark fins are often traded. In the U.S. you can find shark fin soup, just at a very steep price.

7. Raw Milk


Why It’s Banned
Before the Industrial Revolution, raw milk was an everyday commodity. This means that the milk was not pasteurized. People didn’t have the technology yet, plus many urban families owned their own dairy animals, such as goats and cows. New methods of processing milk such as pasteurization led to the banning of raw milk. Today, improved farming conditions and better testing mean raw milk is less risky, but it continues to be banned in 22 states as well as Canada.

Does It Really Stick?
In many countries, you’ll find bottles of raw milk offered. In the U.S., there is a continuous debate raging on about the healthfulness of raw milk, while others insist that it is full of germs. In Europe, Asia, Africa, and other countries, you’ll often find raw milk and even raw cheese available. In the U.S., only 28 states allow the consumption of raw milk. This is usually done through cow shares (where consumers own part of a cow and share the costs and the milk it produces).

Want to Try It?
You’ve got plenty of options here. Slap on your cowboy hat, move out to the country, and join a cow share. Or you can buy a cow, or use someone else’s cow and just do a little milking with a cup in hand. Voila. For commercial raw milk, you may need to travel a little, but you’re sure to find a bottle of it somewhere.

6. Absinthe


Why It’s Banned
In the 1800s, absinthe was gradually banned in many locations around the world. This was due to a large increase in violence and hallucinations, as well as mental illness. However, absinthe made its comeback during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is said that by 1905, there were over 40 distillers just on the Swiss border providing absinthe to France and Switzerland. Again in the 20th century, researchers looked at absinthe and considered it to be highly unsafe. Though many say it’s banned due to the 20th century’s temperance movement, scientists at the time stated that the drink contained thujone, which, even in the smallest quantities caused psychoactive ailments. In 1915, absinthe was banned in most European countries with the exception of a few. Today in the U.S., absinthe is distilled, but is only 75% and is usually diluted with water.

Does It Really Stick?
While traditional absinthe is no longer made, the spirit is still distilled in many countries, notably the Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, and Spain. As of 2008, there were about 200 different types of absinthe available. In the U.S., the drink was allowed to be commercially distilled again in 2007. People just can’t keep their hands off of the Green Fairy!

Want to Try It?
You can probably easily go to a city bar and find absinthe or a local liquor/spirits shop to find it. If you’re looking for the stronger stuff, make your way over to the Czech Republic or France, and you’re sure to make absinthe your mind’s best friend. Bottoms up! Artist: Victor Oliva

5. Wild Beluga Caviar


Why It’s Banned
In 2005, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service put a ban on the import of Beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea. Much like the redfish listed later on, the Beluga sturgeon was becoming endangered and in order to protect the creature, a ban was implemented. In 2007 the ban was lifted with restrictions, allowing 96 tons of the caviar to be sold throughout the world. Today, spotting this caviar is still difficult: just like the Beluga sturgeon fish itself.

Does It Really Stick?
You can find this type of caviar sold online from many different vendors. Or you could find one of those expensive restaurants that serve a tiny spoon of the caviar for hundreds of bucks.

Want to Try It?
If you’re really itching to try some Wild Beluga caviar, there are online companies that claim to offer it; though, you’ll be paying a pretty hefty price for some pea-sized eggs. One website sells the caviar for $2095 for 250g/8.8oz. On the other hand, you can, in the back of your mind, forget the “wild” part of the wild beluga caviar and purchase caviar from a beluga that has been farm raised. Or if you’re lucky, you can score some that has been slowly allowed back into the U.S. since 2007.

4. Sassafras


Why It’s Banned
In the past, sassafras was a widely used plant. It was often used by Indian tribes to treat common ailments, as well as a way to have some sort of aromatherapy. It is said that the herb could sure a cold, stomach ache, and other ailments. It was also used as a cure for syphilis. Before the 1960s, sassafras was used in many different foods, and even drinks. Sassafras tea was highly common, and the sassafras roots were made to create root beer. In the south, the herb was used in Creole soups and stews as a common seasoning. However, in the 1960s, the FDA banned all use of sassafras and any ingredient made out of it, most notably, safrole, a colorless or slightly black oil extracted from the root-bark or fruit. It was banned due to the fact that it is possibly carcinogenic, as determined by lab rat experiments, which concluded that rats given sassafras often contracted liver cancer. Safrole  is the primary precursor for all manufacture of MDMA, better known as the drug ecstasy (source).

Does It Really Stick?
Due to its possibly harmful nature, most people stay away from sassafras. Today, colors and artificial flavoring are used in to make up for the lack of sassafras. Other companies use sassafras that has been cleaned and is rid of safrole. It is highly possible to find online vendors selling sassafras, while in some places you may find sassafras sold as a body wash or potpourri. You may also find people offering sassafras bark.

Want to Try It?
It’s pretty hard to find pure sassafras. Most of the herb used today is free of safrole. Unless you want to eat body wash or sassafras bark, you’re pretty much out of luck. Companies that offer herbal remedies and pills do sell sassafras supplements because herbal and dietary supplements are not under the control of the FDA.

3. Redfish


Why It’s Banned
In the 1980s, a chef named Paul Prudhomme of New Orleans publicly shared his blackened redfish recipe, which was widely sought after in the area. His recipe became so popular that it seemed every household was making blackened redfish. Though it was a great success for Prudhomme, the stock of redfish was depleted, and in July 1986, the Department of Commerce banned the selling of the fish and shut down all fisheries in order to allow the fish to naturally rebuild their population. Today, there are still prohibitions and laws that concern the catching and handling of the redfish. For instance, in Florida and most other states, fisherman are only allowed to keep one redfish a day, and any others that are caught must be put back into the water safely. In 2002, President Bush signed an executive order that restricted the catch and sale of the redfish.

Does It Really Stick?
Although redfish has been banned in all states in the U.S. except one, redfish continues to be very popular. It is a particular favorite in the southern states and sought out by those seeking authentic Creole food. The only state exempt from the federal law banning the selling of the fish for profit is Mississippi.

Want to Try It?
Hop on down to Mississippi or New Orleans where there are plenty of restaurants that serve blackened redfish. The fish served at these restaurants are not sold or bought from state docks. Instead they often come from fish farms or the harvesting is done in Mexico. At times, the fish will come from the Coast Gulf. Or you could become a fisherman, catch your own blackened redfish and enjoy.

2. Japanese Puffer Fish (Fugu)


Why It’s Banned
Sometimes known as blowfish, Fugu in Asian countries, this fish is banned in many countries due to its internal organs and other body parts being highly poisonous. In fact, if you eat the wrong part of this fish, or unknowingly consume a poisonous part of the fish, you will more than likely die from tetrodotoxin, which is a neurotoxin that destroys your body’s nerve tissue, paralyzing the body and then causing asphyxiation. Though, if treated in a timely matter, you can survive the poison’s attack. In 1603-1868 the Tokugawa shogunate prohibited the consumption of Fugu, but this law died down as the shogunate’s power decreased. In the European Union, selling or consuming this fish is strictly prohibited. In the U.S., it is illegal to sell, harvest, or serve the fish without having a license to do so. This was enacted in 2002.

Does It Really Stick?
The fish is often harvested in the Pacific Ocean then sold throughout markets in Japan. Often times the fish is cleaned to get rid of the poisonous parts, frozen, and then sent off to other countries. In the U.S. there are restaurants that serve the dish. Also, despite knowing the down-right lethalness of the fish, many amateur Japanese chefs will eat the liver of the fish, which is considered to be the most poisonous part.

Want to Try It?
If you live near Japan or South Korea, there are still restaurants in the major cities that serve Fugu. Who wouldn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight to taste an aquatic porcupine? Not so close to Asia? In New York there are 17 restaurants that are licensed to serve Fugu.

1. Horse Meat


Why It’s Banned
Horse meat is considered to be a taboo food in many countries, including the U.S., Ireland, Australia, Canada, and throughout various cultural groups around the world. The banning of horse meat goes back to the 8th century. Pope Zachary and Pope Gregory III both told Saint Boniface to forbid his missionaries to eat horse meat, as it had a strong correlation to the Germanic pagan rituals that the Christians were trying to eradicate. This Catholic Church stance on horse meat stands today, while others refuse to eat horse because it is seen as poor man’s meat or due to the fact that horses seem to be man’s other best friend. Both the U.S. and U.K. have banned the slaughter and consumption of horses, as they are seen as companions and labeled “sports animals.”

Does It Really Stick?
Though banned, horse meat and horse slaughter goes on everyday in the U.S. as well as the U.K. In fact, southern states in the U.S. are known for their slaughterhouses for horses in which the meat is sold to other countries. In the U.K. well-known chef Gordon Ramsay has encouraged citizens to eat horse meat on a regular basis.

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Want to Try It?
Though banned in the U.S., you can always find a way to get to Asia or parts of Europe where horse meat is seen as a fine delicacy. Or, to save some time and money, find a horse slaughterhouse in Texas, where often times the meat is shipped out of the country for consumption, illegally of course.


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42 Comments

  1. When I was traveling through Italy, my group stopped at a B&B that not only served horsemeat as one of their main staples. Though I'm usually pretty adventurous when it comes to food, I couldn't bring myself to try it, 2nd man's best friend and all. As bad as eating a dog or cat. : (

  2. In Iceland they eat Puffin…the adorable little pink nose Penguin looking things which we have banned being eaten in Canada…but than again, Canadians are still clubbing baby seals…stupid Newfys…

  3. With all due respect, pasteurization and homogenization of raw milk is for two separate purposes. Pasteurization is to kill harmful bacteria. Homogenization is purely for the benefit of the producers: The process of making homogenized milk, which gained the most popularity in the 1950s, has resulted in longer lasting milk, and the ability to ship milk greater distances.

    During homogenization there is a tremendous increase in surface area on the fat globules. The original fat globule membrane is lost and a new one is formed that incorporates a much greater portion of casein and whey proteins. This may account for the increased allergenicity of modern processed milk.

  4. I eat horsemeat everyday, as well as reindeer.. They are the main ingredients in Meetwursti, a sausage very much like salami and eaten daily here in Finland. Personally i like only about 20-40% of horse/reindeer in Meetwursti as the taste are very strong.

  5. When I visited Paris years ago I remember seeing stores that sold only horsemeat. I wonder if they’re still around? Also, I never knew that sassafras was carcinogenic. I used to go in the woods behind my house as a boy and dig up sassafras roots just to sniff their sweet smell. Sassafras used to be an ingredient in root beer, along with sarsaparilla.

  6. Actually, the horse slaughterhouses in America have been closed down, due to pressure from animal rights groups. This has resulted in horses being shipped to Canada or, more often, Mexico, for slaughter. There are groups, however, that are working to get the borders closed to horses being shipped for such purposes. (On a side note, the banning of slaughterhouses in the US has caused an influx of horses on the market, dropping the price of the average horse dramatically. There are many that simply drop their horses off in Indian reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, or simply the middle of nowhere, because they cannot sell their horse and cannot afford to get it euthanized by a vet).

    In most of Canada, it is true that horse meat is considered taboo; however, there is actually quite a market for it in Quebec. Additionally, the majority of horses raised or bought for meat in Canada are often shipped overseas to Asian countries, where they are fattened further and then slaughtered. Horse meat is quite common throughout both Asia and Europe. Slaughterhouses throughout Canada are slowly starting to close as well.

    • I live in Quebec, and you can find horse meat at almost every butchery / meat shops.

      Especially on the south shore of Montreal near Chambly / Bedford. Look for local restaurants to offer the meal ("tables champètres").

      And people, we kill to live, stop thinking about feelings. Even plants die, and they might have feelings that we can't sense. I don't care, I love to eat! Sorry if I offended some. Delicate subject.

      … Where's my Unicorn steak?

    • Authentic Absinthe is currently produced by several companies including Jade Liquors in France and is available in the US.

      Sassafras is readily obtainable and is a common ingredient in many Cajun and Creole dishes. The contained compound safrole is hydrogenated to make dihydrosafrole used for flavoring root beer and is the starting material for MDMA ("extacy"), not heroin.

      Redfish are available in restaurants through-out the Gulf Coast, but are not fished commercially.

      • I agree about the sassafrass. It is the main ingredient in file', a common spice added to gumbo. I have a bottle of it at home, which I bought in the last year, so as far as I know it isn't banned…

  7. Apparently, the author learned almost everything he knows about absinthe from Eurotrip, and maybe from talking to "this friend of his who knows about this kind of stuff." Thujone can cause hallucinations. But you have to take in a LOT of thujone. Taking that much also causes fever, dementia, and death. However, absinthe actually has very little thujone. You'd die of alcohol poisoning long before any of that kicked in. Some people claim that being drunk off absinthe has a more "euphoric" quality than other drinks, though this is unverified and probably more the placebo effect than anything else.

    Also, there are plenty of other alcoholic beverages, such as ouzo, that contain more thujone than absinthe, which are, and always have been, legal.

    • Also, absinthe is still made in the traditional way. People have found old bottles of the stuff, and replicated it. Also, people in Switzerland have been doing it illegally since it was banned.

  8. I used to live about a mile, down a dirt road, from a Horse Stables, that Rented out their horses. Every other Friday night, they also had a auction of home goods And horses… When the sale was over, the Owner of the Stables, would Most of the time, buy off the Left over horses/ponies and Most of THEM where in Poor shape. It would average from 12 to18… Then they would Put All of them into ONE large truck, drive up to Canada and sell them to a Meat Slaughter house. The Slaughter house would cut and prepare the OLD/Poor shaped animals and Sell it over to Europe as "PRIME HORSE" meat! hmmmmm

  9. In the 1970s in the US there was a beef shortage. During it you could buy horsemeat in the supermarkets. I remember my mom bringing home some horse steaks. I also remember thinking, "this has no flavor."

  10. This is a disgusting article. Why would you encourage people to eat animals that are endangered or abused by telling them where they can find those "delicacies"?

  11. Yes. Horse butchers are still common in france, Belgium, Italy, Spain etc.. And by the way: Foie gras is not banned at all in the European Union (of which France is a member).

    Horse meat is actually quite tasty. I'm a particular fan of donkey sausage, a Corsican treat.

  12. Absinthe is not illegal anymore in the EU since it never was in a few EU countries. For thujone to have any real effect you must drink so much that you will die from the alcohol first. I drank the original absinthe prepared in the original way, with a spoon, some sugar and a candle to heat a mix. It's just a strong beverage. No psychedelic effects whatsoever although the color and taste gives it something mysterious. I like it.

    Foie gras is not illegal in the EU and has never been. The stories about force feeding are merely cr*p. Every year the goose grows a huge liver as an energy source for its long migration trip and will eat anything it can. Goose at foie gras farms come to the feeders themselves and even fight to be fed. Scared or hurt animals don't do that. Sick animals or animals with trauma in their intestines because of overfeeding would die. Neither would it be in the farmers interest to feed a goose more than it could handle. At most farms the animals have good lives in freedom and are not kept in cages at all. The feeding itself is more or less how birds are fed by their parents, farmers use the same reflex. And of course the goose doesn't get an iron pipe all the way down in its throat. That would hurt the animal and there is no need to do that. The final days for the goose are not so nice since it will be kept in captivity so it won't fly away for its big trip. After it is fed a couple of times more it is slaughtered, right when the liver is at maximum quality. Stories about tortured overfed goose are BS.

  13. I can't imagine ouzo has any thujone … the similarity is that both liqueurs are aniseed flavored. However ouzo did tradtionally (and long ago) contain morphine. Thujone is apparently found in large quantities in some vermouths (vermouth and wormwood are related words).

    Many people (including myself) are skeptical that thujone is significantly psychoactive (at least compared to the alcohol you consume it with)

  14. Here in Iceland horse meat is commonly eaten and we also eat whale (not so common) and puffins.

    The horse meat is a delicacy as well as the whale (if cooked correctly)

  15. Orange_you_tang on

    This list is somewhat wrong.

    I have eaten horse, whale and foie gras in Finland, which is an EU country.

    Shark fin, horse and puffer fish in Japan.

    Shark and whale in Iceland.

    And pure milk in all of the above.

    • Melissa,

      You can eat animals and still treat them in an ethical way. Actually, one could argue that the life of a free-range chicken, unconstricted by a cage yet protected from predators, safe from hunger and disease, with abundant food and clean water is much better than that of a wild bird, permanently under threat from predators, hungry, ridden with parasites.

  16. I have to comment on geese and ducks. One would only have to watch either species eat to know they dont require force feeding in the least. They will generally eat whatever they can , even chasing off other animals to approach a feeder.

    I also agree with Bruniquel. There is no reason that animal raised for slaughter can not be treated ethically throughout its life and even to slaughter. I would think that the ethic treatment of those animals would increase their nutritional value and quality of the meat .

  17. Fois Gras is not banned in the EU (of which France is part of.) The UK bans the production of Fois Gras, but not the sale. So it is legal to buy it in say a restruant, but illegal to make it.

    Raw milk. Gone off pastruasied milk is actually more dangerous than gone off raw milk! Raw milk wasn't banned because of the devlopment of pasturisation, that's a little misleading. Raw milk carries the risk of transmitting TB. Regular checks on cattle lower that risk, so it is arguable that with cows reguarly checked for TB the only reason to pasturise milk is to give it a longer shelf life.

    Interesting list though.

  18. I once bought ground horse meat from Maxi (large groceries store) in montreal canada. i'm guessing it not banned over there.

  19. Just a note…fugu is available in Japanese restaurants that have trained chefs to make sure you don’t eat the poisonous parts. Fugu poisoning is rare in Japan, mind you, as nearly all restaurants take precaution.

  20. About raw milk: I think it should important to say that drinking it without boiling it is potentially harmfull and could potentially be deadly, especially in children, due the high level of bacteria.
    The reason why pastorisation is compulsory in most countries is due the fact that raw milk has always been a cause of children mortality!
    PS: in Italy raw milk consumption initiated in the late ’90s but dropped radically after in summer 2008 10 children died of acute infections consuming unboiled raw milk

  21. Peter Boucher on

    Correct me if I am wrong, but on one of your other lists that focused on Vitamin Deficiencies say that Horse Meat contained a great deal of Vitamin C ?

  22. xmysterygirlx on

    Shark finning is brutal, but the main problem is in China and Japan , the next step is to ban it there

  23. I didn’t know there were so many repulsive foods being consumed by people across the world! You should check this one dish: Casu Marzu! It is a form of cheese which is eaten with larvae crawling through it! YUCK! I mean, really what could be more disgusting!

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