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Author Topic: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal  (Read 1985 times)


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Just because it's edible doesn't mean it's legal. There are some foods that federal and state governments ban or severely restrict because of health concerns, to preserve a species, or even in response to inhumane preparation methods. Check out some dishes and ingredients currently banned in the U.S., plus some recently made legal.

In the mood for more food facts? Check out these food history recaps.

Unpasteurized Milk

Banned: Twenty-one states ban the sale of raw milk. Some states permit sale in stores, while others only allow sale direct from farms in small quantities.

Reason: Unpasteurized, or "raw," milk was a household staple in U.S. homes before late-19th-century implementation of pasteurization techniques intended to make milk safer. Laws banning raw milk are meant to protect consumers from harmful bacteria, but proponents of raw milk argue that current standards in farm sanitation make the unpasteurized liquid safe to drink.


Controlled: Forbidden in the U.S. in the early 20th century, absinthe was permitted back into the country in 1997; however, importation is subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Reason: This highly alcoholic drink derived from herbs, including wormwood, fell under a strict ban as it was thought to be an addictive hallucinogen. Certain classes of absinthe were allowed into the U.S. in 1997, when the FDA ruled that imported containers of the drink are legal if they contain less than 100 parts per million of thujone, a toxic chemical present in wormwood.


Banned: Importation of the raw fruit is banned in the U.S.

Reason: This pear-shaped fruit — the national fruit of Jamaica — contains toxins that can suppress the body’s ability to release an extra supply of glucose, plunging one's blood sugar level and potentially leading to death.


Controlled: Once banned in the U.S.; today imports must be irradiated.

Reason: The purple mangosteen, a coveted fruit in Thailand, was once banned in the U.S. because officials feared importing the fruit would introduce the Asian fruit fly into the U.S. The ban was lifted in 2007, but imported mangosteen must first be irradiated to rid it of the fruit flies.

Sassafras Oil

Banned: In the 1960s, the FDA banned the use of sassafras oil, mostly composed of safrole, in foods and additives.

Reason: Sassafras oil — extracted from the dried root bark of the sassafras tree — was once a popular ingredient in tea and root beer. But after scientific evidence deemed safrole a potential carcinogen, the FDA implemented its ban, which is still in place today. (Root extracts that don't contain safrole are allowed.)

Japanese Puffer Fish

Banned: It is illegal to sell, harvest, or serve puffer fish in the U.S. without a license. Sale and consumption are strictly prohibited in the European Union.

Reason: This fish has a killer taste — literally. The puffer fish's skin and certain organs contain tetrodotoxin, an extremely poisonous toxin that can paralyze a human and lead to asphyxiation. However fugu, as it is called in Japanese, has been eaten for hundreds of years in Japan, where expert chefs serve it as a delicacy.


Banned: Sale for profit is banned in all U.S. states except Mississippi. Most states with fishing laws regulate catching redfish for personal use.

Reason: When New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme publicized his recipe for blackened redfish in 1980, he started a craze. Restaurants served up so many dishes that the redfish became endangered. The Commerce Department began closing down redfish fisheries in 1986 and limited the sale to help the fish population regrow.

Wild Beluga Caviar

Banned: Prohibited in the U.S.

Reason: Wild Beluga caviar, which comes from the wild Beluga sturgeon, once achieved a popularity that led to dangerously low numbers of the eggs. In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the caviar.

Shark Fins

Banned: "Shark finning" is banned in the U.S. Fins can comprise only 5 percent of a fisherman's total shark haul.

Reason: Shark finning — removing the fin and dumping the shark back into the ocean — is illegal in U.S. waters. Consuming shark fins is legal — as in the Chinese dish shark fin soup (pictured) — but the dishes are usually very expensive. Most shark fins gathered in the U.S. are exported to Asian cities.

Chilean Sea Bass

Controlled: Only sanctioned sources are authorized to sell Chilean sea bass. The FDA issues compliance numbers to boats that are officially permitted to catch the fish.

Reason: You can consume legally caught Chilean sea bass in the U.S. But overfishing has endangered the species, leading Seafood Watch, which encourages sustainable ocean life, to put it on its list of fish to avoid. Uncertified Chilean sea bass is banned in the U.S. and more than 24 other countries. France, especially, has strict regulations for capturing Chilean sea bass off the coast of the country's islands in the Indian ocean.

Foie Gras

Banned: Banned in Chicago, IL, from 2006 to 2008.

Reason: In 2006, Chicago City Council members banned foie gras in restaurants. The council declared the process of force-feeding (part of the preparation to fatten the geese) inhumane. The city repealed the ban two years later. A law preventing force-feeding will go into effect in California in 2012.


Banned: Protected species in Europe. Smuggling the bird into the U.S. is a crime.

Reason: This tiny bird has a rich history in France, where gourmands have enjoyed ortolan so much that the population has severely declined since the 1960s. Selling ortolan in France is now illegal. But that wasn't the case when the late French president François Mitterrand famously feasted on the bird during his "last supper" on New Year's Eve in 1995.

Horse Meat

Banned: Consuming horse meat is technically legal in most states; however, slaughtering horses for human consumption is banned in the U.S.

Reason: It's unlikely you'll find horse meat on a restaurant menu in the U.S., but it's regularly consumed in parts of Asia, Latin America, and Europe. At one time, slaughterhouses in the U.S. provided meat for human consumption in other areas of the world. But in June 2010, Congress voted to extend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 to prohibit further slaughtering.

Casu Marzu

Banned: Forbidden in the U.S.

Reason: Casu marzu, a traditional Sardinian cheese, develops when cheese fly larvae are introduced into Pecorino to promote advanced fermentation. As the larvae hatch and eat through the cheese, it softens. Diners have to dig in before the maggots die. Casu marzu, like many unpasteurized cheeses, is banned in the U.S.

Offline kuro_808

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Re: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2010, 06:34:33 AM »
interestingly enough that I want to try them in foreign countries and knowing the risk actually has its upside, well that's how I feel
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Offline strawb3rrykream

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Re: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2010, 06:58:27 AM »
I'd want to try mangosteen and fugu~ I heard that if you feel your tongue/mouth numbing a little, the poison wasn't completely cleaned from the fish. :lol:

Offline shurastriker

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Re: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2010, 07:40:34 AM »
wonder who eats horse in latin america... knowing that is horse i mean

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Re: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2010, 10:44:03 AM »
One thing to watch out for is that what they sell as Chilean Sea Bass can actually be from a difference species of fish.

In particular, the Escolar is one to watch out for because of its possible health effects:
Like its relative the oilfish (Ruvettus pretiosus), escolar cannot metabolize the wax esters (Gempylotoxin) naturally found in its diet. This gives the escolar an oil content of 14–25% in its flesh. These wax esters may cause gastrointestinal distress in humans called "steatorrhea", the onset of which may occur between 30 minutes and 36 hours following consumption. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, bright orange oil in stool, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

That's why this particular fish has been banned in Japan and Italy, with legislation in several other places limiting its use.

It's no fun eating too much of this fish. Trust me on this one.
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Re: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2010, 01:59:03 PM »
I want to eat a horse, but didn't eat a dog when I had the chance.

Offline Scramasax

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Re: Banned Food: From the Strictly Controlled to the Downright Illegal
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2010, 04:20:14 PM »
I notice it doesn't really give a reason why horse meat is banned.  It just gives history on it.  I'd liek to try it and also know why it's banned in the first place.

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