Americans love their food, and they are able to buy (almost) anything imaginable at restaurants, farms, markets, and other stores, but some foods are currently banned. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned many foods from being sold or eaten in the United States due to their not being safe for consumption. Here is a list of the top ten foods that are surprisingly banned in the US.
10 – Haggis
Haggis is a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep, mixed with beef and oatmeal and seasoned with onions, cayenne peppers, and other spices. This mixture is then packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. Haggis is the national dish of Scotland and is usually accompanied by turnips and mashed potatoes.
Haggis is currently banned from being imported into the United States. In 1971, the US banned all foods that are made from animal lungs. Scotland has made several efforts to influence the US into lifting the ban on haggis and changing federal food safety regulations, but they have come up short each time.
9 – Beluga Caviar
The beluga sturgeon is the largest of the sturgeons, weighing more than 900 kilograms (2,000 lb) and measuring more than 4.5 meters (15 ft) long. It can take up to 25 years for the female beluga to mature and produce eggs. Beluga caviar varies in color from light to dark grey and is the largest-grain caviar. Their pearls are the most delicate and have a mild, buttery flavor.
In 2005, the United States banned beluga caviar from further import due to overfishing. The US was consuming about 60 percent of the world’s beluga caviar, which is considered the king of caviar due to costing $200 per ounce. Beluga caviar was so desirable that the available stock declined by 90 percent. Overfishing of the beluga can be traced back to poaching and the black market.
8 – Unpasteurized Milk
Unpasteurized milk, or raw milk, is milk that comes directly from an animal’s udder and hasn’t been heat-treated, or pasteurized, to kill any bacteria. Raw milk carries a higher risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses than pasteurized milk. Children are at a higher risk for these diseases because their immune systems have not yet fully developed.
The FDA banned the interstate sale or distribution of raw milk in the US, but states are able to adopt their own laws of the sale of raw milk. Drinking and consuming unpasteurized milk is legal in all 50 states, but 20 states prohibit the sale of raw milk. Thirteen states allow the sales of raw milk in retail stores, and 17 allow the sale of raw milk only on the farm in which it was produced.
There is currently a movement in the United States to consume organic and locally grown foods. Some believe that raw milk is more nutritious and provides “good bacteria” for the body. Many of the states that allow the selling of raw milk require a warning label informing consumers about the risk of pathogens that can be found in the milk.
7 – Sassafras Oil
Sassafras oil is extracted from the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. The tree stands anywhere from 6 to 12 meters (20–40 ft) tall, with slender branches and orange- and brown-colored bark. The leaves are oval and can grow 8 to 18 centimeters (3–7 in) long, and the flowers are small and of a greenish or yellow color.
Many Native American tribes used sassafras for various medicinal purposes, including to help with acne, urinary disorders, and fevers. Sassafras can also be found in Chinese medications to help treat rheumatism and trauma. The twigs from the plants were once used as toothbrushes, and sassafras was also used as an early anesthetic and disinfectant. Sassafras was found in many distinct foods in the US, and it was known as a key ingredient in many root beers and teas.
The FDA prohibits all sassafras bark, oil, and safrole as flavorings or food additives. Sassafras is no longer considered safe for human consumption, and it was banned in 1979, after research linked it to cancer. Also, when too much sassafras oil is consumed, poisoning can possibly occur.
6 – Ortolan
The ortolan is a bird in the bunting family of Emberizidae. It is a tiny songbird that weighs less than an ounce. This bird was once a controversial meal in France and is cooked for eight minutes and served with the head attached. The bird is meant to be eaten whole, including the head and bones.
Killing and selling the ortolan was banned in France in the 1990s, but poachers continued to catch the small bunting and sell it to local restaurants. France’s League for the Protection of Birds claimed that the ortolan population dropped 30 percent even after the ban, forcing the government to enact more stringent enforcement in 2007.
The killing of the rare bird is less controversial than the barbaric way in which it is killed. These birds are trapped during their migratory season and kept in covered cages. The ortolan eats more at night, so the covering the cages will encourage them to gorge on grain, to the point where their bodies double in size. It is said that ancient emperors would pluck out the birds’ eyes, tricking them to thinking it was night so that they would eat more. The ortolans are ultimately thrown alive into a vat of Armagnac, which both drowns and marinates them.
France now strictly enforces the ban on killing ortolans. The killing, cooking, or smuggling of the bird anywhere in the European Union or the United States is currently a crime.