Americans eat some
These unusual foods are popular overseas, but you won’t find them on grocery store shelves in this country anytime soon—they are all banned in the United States.
Did your favorite food make the list?
Pufferfish may look pretty cute, but don’t let that fool you.
One pufferfish contains enough toxins to kill up to 30 people. Pufferfish get their names because they can inflate their bodies to several times their normal size, turning themselves into a giant, inedible ball.
Despite their deadly nature, pufferfish are considered a delicacy in Japan. Called fugu, pufferfish are only prepared by licensed chefs who know that incorrect preparation of the delicacy could quite literally be a customer’s last meal.
It is illegal to sell, harvest, or serve pufferfish in the United States for obvious reasons. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the import of fugu from one supplier into the country. This pufferfish is farm raised, is served in only a few restaurants across the United States, and does not have the same toxicity as wild pufferfish.
2. Raw Milk
Raw milk comes fresh from the udder, meaning it has not been pasteurized. Although there are concerns over the safety of raw milk, many people believe there are benefits to drinking raw milk that just can’t be obtained by drinking the pasteurized version.
Pasteurization is the process of heating foods to a safe level to kill harmful bacteria. In the late 1800s, the dairy industry began to pasteurize milk to stop the spread of tuberculosis, a serious lung infection that was often spread through raw milk.
The national dish of Scotland, haggis is a pudding (not to be confused with the Jell-O variety) made of meat organs, spices, and oatmeal, which are boiled in a sheep’s stomach.
Haggis has been eaten in Scotland for centuries and can be found everywhere from high-end restaurants to fast-food chains across the country.
Importing the traditional version of the hearty dish from Scotland become illegal in the United States in the 1971, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared that “Livestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food.”
The fear was that people could get scrapie, a fatal degenerative disease found in sheep and goats. It has not been proven that humans can contract scrapie, although the disease has been linked to certain neurological disorders in people.
You still can’t buy the traditional Scottish dish in the United States, but haggis may be making its American debut soon, as there are talks of removing restrictions on sheep imports.
4. Queen Conch
The queen conch refers to both the actual mollusk and its distinctive shell.
The conch is an edible mollusk that has the chewy texture of calamari but tastes kind of like crab. It is often fried into tasty fritters or used in chowders across the Caribbean.
It is illegal to harvest queen conchs in the state of Florida, the only place they can be found in the United States. Imports from certain countries were banned in the United States due to overharvesting.
Have a hankering for fried conch fritters? You can still order conch at many seafood restaurants; the United States does allow conch imports from legally sourced providers.
5. Sassafras Oil
Sassafras is a tree with fragrant bark and leaves. Sassafras gave original root beer its distinct flavor and has been used medicinally for hundreds of years to alleviate inflammation and boost dental health.
Despite its tasty flavor, sassafras has largely been banned in the United States because the root bark contains safrole, a known carcinogen.
Products that contain sassafras, such as some teas and natural root beers, can still be purchased as long as the safrole has been removed.
Eating horsemeat is still common in many parts of the world, but remains off the menu in the United States. Since the first explorers set foot on American soil, horses were valued for trade and warfare rather than as a food source.
Americans have eaten horsemeat during hard times, though, most notably during the Civil War—and even during the 1970s during a meat shortage.
Horsemeat has effectively been banned since 2007, but those restrictions have not been extended since 2011. This doesn’t mean you can purchase horsemeat for consumption, however. Any meat product sold in the United States has to be inspected, and currently there are no regulations (or plans to regulate) inspections for horsemeat in the U.S.
7. Casu Marzu
The world’s most dangerous cheese, casu marzu, is produced in Sardinia.
Why is it so dangerous?
Casu marzuShardan/Wikimedia Commons is made of sheep’s milk and contains live fly larvae that eat the rotting cheese. The cheese passes through the larvae, and their excrement is what gives the cheese its very distinct flavor.
Casu marzu has been banned both in the U.S. and UK for obvious health reasons. Unless you visit Sardinia and know a guy who knows a guy who deals in illegal cheeses, casu marzu will have to stay on your foodie bucket list.
8. Tonka Beans
Tonka beans are valued in fine dining for their aroma, which has hints of vanilla, cherry, almond, and cinnamon.
The tonka bean’s distinct flavor is thanks to coumarin, a chemical compound that has been banned in the United States since 1954 because it can cause liver problems in high concentrations.
Although tonka beans are technically banned in the United States, many restaurants continue to find ways to import and use the bean. Or, you could jet off to Europe, where coumarin is not restricted, for a taste of tonka.
9. Ackee Fruit
The ackee fruit has been adopted by Jamaica as its national fruit, even though it can famously cause Jamaican vomiting sickness. The seeds of the ackee fruit are extremely toxic, and only the yellow fruit surrounding the seeds are edible.
If the ackee fruit is not prepared correctly, eating it can cause not only the aforementioned vomiting but can also lead to hypoglycemia, muscle weakness, coma, and even death, which is why it has been banned in the United States.
But if you can’t make it to Jamaica for fresh ackee, canned and frozen ackee can be purchased stateside.
10. Shark Fins
Shark fin soup is a delicacy across much of Asia. The shark fins don’t provide much flavor, but they add texture to the soup, which is often served at banquets and weddings.
Harvesting the shark fins is pretty gruesome, which is why shark fin harvesting has been banned in the United States. When shark fins are harvested, the sharks are captured, their fins are removed, and the sharks are then dumped back in the ocean.
Shark fin soup continues to be served in the United States, as imports are still legal in many states. But recent legislation introduced in 2016 aims to totally stop shark fin imports into the United States.
If the legislation passes, foodie thrill seekers will have to travel outside the United States to get a taste of shark fin soup.