You probably avoid some foods because they’re bad for you, and others because you just don’t like the taste, but did you know you might be missing out on some of the tastiest foods the world has to offer because your government has decided to ban them?
Where you live has an impact on the types of foods you legally can (and can’t) enjoy. The popular childhood treat the Kinder Egg, for instance, is banned in the US, while Singaporeans would be breaking the law if they bought, or chewed, gum.
See below for 16 more examples of foods that are banned around the world.
Banned in Somalia
In 2011 Islamic group Al-Shabaab banned samosas, stating that the shape was too closely associated with the Christian Trinity and therefore, offensive. Consequently Somalis face punishment if caught making, buying or eating the otherwise widely-enjoyed snack food.
Banned in the US
UK to US haggis imports were banned in 1971 after the States outlawed foods containing sheep lung, on account of the fact that stomach acid, phlegm and other fluids can enter the lungs upon slaughter. Despite this “haggis” is available in the US, but it won’t be made to the traditional recipe (which contains approximately 10% to 15% sheep lung).
Banned in the US
The popular children’s treat has been banned in the US since the 1930s due to an old act which outlawed any foodstuff containing a “non-nutritive object”.
As of November 2017 however, the tides have turned (somewhat, at least). Rebranded as Kinder Joy, the new and “improved” egg circumvents US law by packaging the chocolate egg and the toy in individual containers.
Banned in Japan (sort of)
Japan seems to have a sort of love-hate relationship with fugu – a type of pufferfish that, if prepared incorrectly, can cause paralysis followed by death (although your odds of survival increase significantly if only a small amount of poison is consumed, and treatment is sought quickly).
Illegal in the past, today fugu is technically legal, but only when prepared by licensed chefs that have been trained in its preparation during a two or three year apprenticeship.
Banned in Canada and many US states
Raw (or unpasteurised) milk can contain a number of harmful bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. As a result it’s been banned countrywide in Canada (although the ban doesn’t apply to farmers who want to consume the milk themselves) as well as many US states. It’s also illegal in Scotland, and while you can purchase it legally elsewhere in the UK, it’s only available from a small number of registered producers.
So why would someone want to consume raw milk?
While pasteurisation kills potentially harmful bacteria, it also destroys many of its health-giving properties. A lot of people also believe raw milk tastes better than the pasteurised version, and that its risks are grossly exaggerated – as with many risky foodstuffs, source it correctly, and store it correctly (in a fridge 3 degrees celcius or below) and you should be okay.
Banned in New Zealand, Russia and Australia
Did you know that the orange colour of farmed salmon actually results from chemicals and antibiotics that are fed to the fish? As a result, farmed salmon has been banned in New Zealand, Australia, and Russia.
Banned in the US (sort of)
Ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit, where the traditional dish involves boiling the fruit and serving it with salted fish. If properly ripe, it’s perfectly safe, but under ripe ackee contains high levels of hypoglycin A and B, an amino acid which can make consumers very ill and in severe cases, result in coma or death.
Consequently the US banned the fruit entirely, until 2000, when the country legalised sales of a small number of frozen and canned ackee products. Fresh ackee remains illegal in all states.
Banned in Israel, Argentina, India, parts of the US and much of Europe
Foie gras is banned in many parts of the world on ethical grounds. Traditionally it’s produced by force-feeding a duck or goose through a tube until the liver (the part of the bird used as foie gras) swells to bursting. Some countries however, including Spain, have begun to produce the delicacy using natural feeding.
Banned in Australia, New Zealand and the US
Absinthe contains thujone, a toxic chemical believed to have hallucinogenic effects. This was later disproven, but the drink remains banned in the US, New Zealand, and Australia.
Banned in Singapore (sort of)
Durian is the world’s stinkiest fruit (the smell has been likened to sewage, rotting flesh, dead rats, and turpentine – to name a few) and while many people prize the taste, the smell means its transport and consumption is heavily restricted in many parts of the world. In Singapore, the fruit is banned on public transport and in many airports and hotels.
Banned in most of the EU
Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese that’s produced by leaving a whole pecorino cheese outside with part of the rind removed. The cheese fly Piophila casei then lay eggs in the cheese (with each fly laying as many as 500 or more at one time). As the eggs hatch the larvae start to eat through the cheese. As this happens, acid from their digestive systems break the cheese down, resulting in a very soft texture. By the time it’s consumed it typically contains thousands of maggots. Traditionally Casu marzu is “enjoyed” with the maggots still alive, however less “adventurous” diners can choose to starve the maggots of oxygen first.
While the concept of the cheese is enough for most people to accept its legal status, the real reason it was outlawed is because it’s legitimately dangerous – the larvae can live in human intestines and cause a condition called pseudomyiasis.
Banned in most of the world
Caviar (fish eggs) is a popular delicacy worldwide, but caviar from the eggs of the Beluga sturgeon (historically one of the main types of caviar) is illegal throughout most of the world, on account of its critically endangered status.
Ovaltine, Marmite and Horlicks
Banned in Denmark
In Danish law all fortified foods must be government approved and tested. Since fortified foodstuffs Ovaltine, Marmite and Horlicks are all UK imports, they are not subject to this scrutiny and consequently are simply banned.
Vegan School Meals
Banned in France
French school lunches must meet strict nutritional requirements that dictate all meals should include a protein element and dairy product, meaning that effectively, vegan meals are banned.
Banned in the US
Sassafras root (from the North American Sassafras tree) was once an essential ingredient in root beer, however the FDA banned it in the 1960s after discovering one of its components, safrole, can cause cancer in rats.
Today most root beers don’t contain sassafras root at all, however a number of products contain a safrole-free variety of the ingredient.
Banned in Singapore
Chewing gum has been banned in Singapore since 1992, as a response to years of problems caused by its disposal in flats (on things like the inside of mailboxes and keyholes, and on lift buttons) and later on the country’s $5 billion local railway system (vandals would stick it to the door sensors, preventing them from working properly).
Today you can’t buy chewing gum in Singapore, or import it into the country. The fine for spitting gum out on the streets is $700.
Banned in the US
The sale of the South American tonka bean has been illegal in the US since 1954, on account of its high contents of coumarin – a chemical believed to be toxic to the liver, and to act as a blood thinner.
However, conflicting reports show coumarin to be toxic – but only in huge amounts. It’s also delicious, with those who have eaten it describing aromas of vanilla, cherry, almond and cinnamon. Consequently a number of Michelin starred chefs have decided to flout the US law and use the beans regardless.
Nowhere in the world can you eat ortolan bunting – not legally, at least – and when you hear how it’s produced, you’ll understand why.
The ortolan bunting is a French bird that will eat constantly if you put it in the dark. Before the ban, the birds would be placed in a dark box with plenty of millet. When they’ve eaten enough they are drowned in Armagnac brandy and eaten whole.