When you look at the entirety of our culinary history there are thousands, if not millions, of dishes that have been developed all around the world across time. There’s no way that anyone could ever sample them all, and there’s no way that anyone would ever like them all, either. And maybe that’s part of the beauty of cooking and eating; your tastes are your own and you’re free to enjoy what you like and ignore what you don’t. Still, sometimes the government has to step in and decide that no one is allowed to eat a certain food for one reason or another.
When you think of world cuisine, there are a few dishes that are emblematic of the countries they come from. Poutine and maple syrup are distinctly Canadian. Sushi absolutely brings to mind Japanese cuisine. And when you think of Scottish food, you’re probably thinking of haggis.
Traditional haggis is made from the offal of a sheep. That includes internal organs such as heart, liver, and lungs. That meat is mixed with filler ingredients that give it some body and flavor. Things like oatmeal, onion, suet, and spices. It’s all mashed up together kind of like a meatball or sausage and then traditionally it’s wrapped in the animal’s stomach and then cooked.
These days there are dozens if not hundreds of different ways to prepare haggis. Like any food, recipes have evolved and chefs have come up with unique and modern ways to prepare the dish. You can find haggis served in restaurants that’s made not just from sheep but beef, venison, rabbit, and rare game meats. It’s the traditional haggis that got it banned in America, however.
In particular, the USDA has banned the sale of sheep lung. According to their standards this ingredient is not edible and therefore can’t be included. For that reason, if you want to make it in America you have to leave that ingredient out. So if you’re a fan of traditional haggis, you’re out of luck in the United States, unless you’re willing to make the compromise to swap out that one key ingredient.
9. Horse meat
Few foods are as controversial even to this day as horse meat. To some, it’s no different than slaughtering a cow or a pig which is a common and everyday thing in America. For others, a horse is much more like a dog or a cat. These are animals that people bond with him consider closer to pets rather than livestock.
Because of the taboo against eating horse meat it is banned in many states across the country although not at all of them. The history of Slaughter of horses in the US states back a number of years but it was traditionally an export business. Horses would be killed and the meat would be sent abroad. Both Canada and Mexico allow for the slaughter of horses for meat.
8. Beluga Caviar
Beluga caviar which comes from beluga sturgeon is one of the most expensive foods in the world. One kilogram of these fish eggs will set you back about $35,000. That’s around 50% of the value of the same weight of solid gold. Part of the reason for the Incredible cost of Beluga caviar is how rare it is. The fish that it is harvested from are native to the Caspian Sea and they are seriously endangered. In the last century, the population has declined by about 70%. Much of this is thanks to Illegal poaching and overfishing.
Because the fish are so critically endangered, the caviar was banned in America in the year 2005 in an effort to curb the command and help keep the species alive. Today if you want to have Beluga caviar in America there’s only one legal source of it thanks to a business person who invested in some of the fish back in 2003 and had them imported into the country before the ban took effect.
The national fruit of Jamaica, ackee is an extremely popular fruit on the island and it’s well represented through Jamaican and island cuisine. Ackee and saltfish is something that you should find at any Jamaican restaurant.The fruit itself is a bit unusual and has a kind of savoury, creamy quality to it. And it’s also been banned in the United States.
The reason for the ackee ban is that if the fruit is not properly prepared it’s actually toxic. It contains something called toxin hypoglycin A which can dangerously lower blood sugar levels. It also causes vomiting, drowsiness, and potentially death. So the key and product is usually safe, but fresh can be potentially dangerous. As well, the seeds and flesh of the fruit can also be dangerous.
6. Kinder Surprise Eggs
Around the world, kids love Kinder Surprise eggs. The chocolate shell houses a tiny little plastic egg inside in which a toy of some kind is hidden. If you’ve ever had one you know that more often than not the toy’s a pretty cheap little trinket that certainly won’t change your life, but the surprise is more of the fun behind this idea than anything else.
Even though Kinder Eggs are enjoyed by children all throughout Europe, Asia, and Canada, the United States has taken a stand against them. Because that tiny toy inside might have even tinier parts, it’s a danger to children, at least as far as the United States government is concerned. The ban on Kinder Eggs dates all the way back to 1938 when government policy deemed it unacceptable for any food product to have non-nutritive ingredients. Kinder Eggs hadn’t been invented at the time, but when they did show up in the 1970s they met the requirements for this ban and so were never allowed in the country.
By now most everyone has heard of the Japanese delicacy known as Fugu. This preparation of puffer fish has even been parodied on The Simpsons in an episode that aired all the way back in 1991. The reason it became infamous is because, if it’s prepared incorrectly, Fugu will kill you.
Looks like poison dart frogs, the fugu fish isn’t technically toxic on its own. Its diet is what makes it so dangerous. The puffer fish eats snails and other toxic little creatures of the deep and those toxins are filtered by the fish’s liver. The liver is incredibly toxic and if, when preparing it as food, it suffers even the slightest cut that toxin will filter through the entire fish. Just one puffer fish liver is thought to contain enough poison to kill about 30 adult humans. Additionally, the rest of the fish’s organs will have traces of the toxin as well.
After ingesting the toxin you’ll have anywhere from half an hour to four hours in which to experience respiratory failure before ultimately succumbing to death. There isn’t a treatment for the tetrodotoxin in the liver, so it’s best avoided. Despite that, humans have apparently been eating these fish for well over 4,000 years.
Japanese chefs who want to become a Fugu Masters have to train for at least three years to master the art. In America it was just decided to ban the fish to prevent any potential problems as there are still a handful of people who die from Fugu poisoning every year.
Also known as the Green Fairy, absinthe is the liquor of choice for literary types and those who fancy themselves a little bit goth. Both incredibly strong and incredibly bitter, the alcohol has a reputation because of its association with famous literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde.
Ask someone today why absinthe was so popular and you might hear of a chemical called thujone. The product of distilling the wormwood that absinthe is made from, it was believed that thujone had psychoactive properties which is what made it so appealing to artistic types. It would expand their minds and allow them to go on a bit of a trip and become more creative. It’s for that reason that absinthe was actually banned in the United States. It’s only been in the last few years that absinthe has been allowed to be sold again and the amount of thujone must meet federal regulations.
The ironic thing is that studies have shown that old absinthe doesn’t have anymore thujone then modern absinthe does. There’s actually nothing at all in absinthe that has psychoactive properties at all. That includes modern absinthe or old bottles that have been studied as well. So where did the reputation come from? Some of it was likely just propaganda, some of it was probably chronic alcoholism related to the fact absinthe is about 140 proof, and the rest was likely due to faulty distillation producing contaminated batches.
3. Foie Gras
Foie gras is the liver of a duck or a goose that has grown to an obscene size because the bird has been force-fed in captivity. They actually get up to about eight times their natural size which makes it a gourmet delicacy to some, but is also in very technical terms an example of a horribly diseased liver. And it’s for that reason that foie gras has been under assault for many years because of the cruel nature of the way it’s produced.
Although in places like Europe it has been considered a delicacy for ages now, bands have been taking their fax across America including the most recent band in 2019 in New York state. California passed a ban in the year 2004 that took eight years to fully come into effect. But there’s a lot of money in the industry so there have been legal challenges that have been so far unsuccessful. As more bands take effect, it seems likely that a nationwide ban could be in the future.
The ortolan bunting bird it’s about six inches high and can be found throughout Europe and parts of Western Asia. Although their population is stable in most countries it has dipped remarkably low in France. The French delicacy of ortolan caused a population to dip so low that the animals were listed as a protected species and hunting of ortolan was banned in France in 1999. Despite the ban, the law was never very strictly enforced.
The fact that people eat ortolan is not what is grisly about their fate, we eat all kinds of birds. It is the way in which ortolan is prepared that has caused countries like the United States to ban serving them as food. According to the traditional recipe, the little bird is supposed to be blinded. Without the benefit of its vision it will eat constantly and gorge itself on whatever seeds or fruits are provided. Then, much the way foie gras is created, the little birds become exceedingly fat as a result of their overeating.
Once they’ve achieved an appropriate size, the bird is then immersed in Armagnac brandy to drown and marinate the animal. At this point they’re roasted and then once they’re cooked the idea is to eat them whole, feet first.
Even though it’s banned in France, it’s believed about 30,000 a year are still captured and sold illegally for around $180 per bird. French chefs are still in love with the idea, and there are many offputting descriptions of eating the bird which describe the transcendent moment its tiny rib cage breaks in your mouth.
Part of the ritual for eating the bird involves having the napkin you’re using for dinner placed over your head to hide your face. This has two reasons. One is to allow the napkin to capture the aroma of the bird before you eat it, and the other is supposedly to hide the sin of what you’re doing from God.
1. Sea Turtle
There was once a time when sea turtle was considered something of a special occasion food. People ate it the way you might eat turkey today. Not an everyday sort of thing, but still a special dish. Abraham Lincoln had turtle served at his second inauguration. Turtle soup was a favourite across the country for many years. Campbell Soup used to sell mock turtle soup by the can, made from calf’s head rather than turtle because turtle was becoming harder and harder to come by. And that is the crux of why eating turtles has been banned. They were eaten to the point of critical endangerment.
These days things like green sea turtles are federally protected as endangered species. It’s a felony charge to kill and eat these creatures now, so you won’t find them on menus any longer.