Someone on Quora asked: Are there any illegal foods? Here are some of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Thank you to the team at Quora for making this happen!
Two examples that come to mind are:
· it is illegal to eat shark fin in Hawaii
· it is illegal to sell foie gras in California
Just because something is edible doesn’t necessarily make it legal. I cannot speak for other countries but, in the US, 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.
2. Alaka Halder
Milk and dairy products that contain recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is America’s largest selling dairy product. It’s banned in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the EU, and Canada.
Australia bans local farmers from using Canthaxanthin dye to color their salmon. Historically, Australia has been very careful about what types of salmon are raised and brought into the country, both to protect local farmers and also to prevent contamination by disease agents and toxins. Between 1975-2000, Australia banned “importation of fresh, chilled and frozen salmon”. The end of the import bans involved a long, complicated settlement process (mediated by the World Trade Organization, WTO). There’s still a lot of misinformation on the internet about whether the ban is still in place. If anyone is interested in reading about the settlement in detail, refer to archives on the Washington University website.
Canthaxanthin dye is used to make the farmed salmon flesh “redder” and thus resemble wild salmon flesh. It is commonly used in the US, but Australia has banned it because the chemical causes health problems (e.g. eye disorders). Farmed fish tends to be more pale than wild-caught salmon, and fetches lower prices. The redder the salmon, the higher the price.
How can we differentiate between wild and farmed salmon? The flesh of wild salmon is bright red (due to its natural astaxanthin content). It’s very lean too, so the fat marks (the white strips in the meat) are very thin. Pale pink salmon with wide fat marks are farmed.
Samosa is an Indian snack, popular across Indian subcontinent, middle east and even in some parts of Africa, North America and Europe.
Apparently, they are banned in Somalia: Islamist groups in Somalia bans samosas after deciding they’re too Western!
Reason: They think it resembles a Christian Holy Trinity
image – Flickr / penguincakes
4. John Burgess
This very much depends on both local and national law.
It is illegal to import haggis into the US, for example, because it contains sheep lung, which is not deemed “human food” by the federal government. California has made foie gras illegal; Chicago did that, but later rescinded the law. Of course, adulterated foods are illegal, too, in every country that has the ability to test for adulteration.
It is illegal in the US, in most circumstances, to sell game animals that are not raised on farms. It’s not illegal to eat them, but to sell them or offer them for sale. Similar laws, both federal and state, can limit or prohibit the capture and sale of certain fish, at least during certain times of the year. Fish from certain waters known to be polluted are sometimes banned from sale and their consumption strongly discouraged.
It is illegal to sell whale, dolphin, porpoise, and manatee meat. Many states ban the sale of “road kill”. In the US, it is illegal to sell monkey meat, dog, and cat. Selling horse meat is de factoillegal as there are no legal slaughterhouses.
Cheeses made of raw milk are generally prohibited from sale in the US unless they have undergone specific aging requirements.
Various Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia make it illegal to sell any product that is not halal. That includes pork, alcohol, horse, etc. Some countries ban the sale of foods grown in countries which they disfavor — Israeli-made goods, for example, cannot be legally sold in many Arab countries, but not al
The Ortolan Bunting. One of the great delicacies of French cuisine. About the size of an adult man’s thumb.
Captured, force fed (if you put them in a dark box full of food they can’t stop eating), killed by drowning in brandy, then roasted and eaten whole.
Anthony Bourdain wrote a whole chapter about this experience in one of his books.
Francis Mitterrand had Ortolan as part of his last meal.
This is, apparently, a Big Deal.
6. Inna Vishik
The state of Massachusetts recently banned escolar AKA butterfish AKA walu. This fish was sometimes substituted for white tuna, and can cause gastrointestinal distress if you eat too much.
This is unfortunate because good escolar tastes better than albacore which it allegedly impersonates on menus and at fish markets. Good escolar is the most amazing, succulent, buttery fish I have ever tasted. You only need a few pieces of sashimi to be satisfied, which is not nearly enough to cause you and your spouse to sleep in separate rooms that night.
image – Flickr / rick
Oh yes, in many parts of India – BEEF is a cognizable offence!
Take for example The Delhi Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act 1994 which under section 11 (1) allows the ‘competent authorities’ to enter my home purely on the suspicion that I am buying, selling, cooking or admiring a cut of beef.
Beef in this law includes meat from
1. Cows of all ages.
2. Calves of Cows of all ages.
In other states like Maharashtra, Buffaloes and Bulls (no cows!) may be slaughtered provided they are of a certain age or are proved to be economically worthless.
But never fear, there is Kerala! Or Manipur or Sikkim or other states where there are no laws about cattle slaughter.
And regardless of State laws, everyone knows a local dealer who will supply some fine cuts!
Casu marzu was outlawed in the EU for a while and now the legal status is questionable according to Wikipedia.
It’s a sheep milk cheese which contains live insect larvae, and it goes beyond typical fermentation that is brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei.
9. Ted Haigh
As a proud global tosspotted sophisticate, I am uniquely qualified to answer on behalf of the forgotten food group….booze.
Żubrówka is a flavored, vodka-like spirit imbued with the haunting flavor of Bison Grass. In America we get either an artificially-flavored substitute or a botanically modified one instead of the real thing (which is utterly delightful.) The reason? Bison Grass contains Coumarin. Those on blood thinners may detect a similarity in the drug Coumadin, which is a brand name for same. One form of coumarin is warfarin, from which Coumadin is derived. It’s the same compound once favored to kill rats as well. It’s all dependent on the dosage. The FDA banned Żubrówka based on the minute measure of coumarin and its anticoagulant effects. Europe has not.
Certain varieties of cocktail bitters have either been banned or altered because one of the 19th century ingredients they popularly contained was the innocent little tonka bean. Why? It contains…coumarin!
Absinthe was under a U.S. ban for almost one hundred years because it contained artemisia absinthium, aka common wormwood, because IT contained thujone, an ingredient correctly determined to act as a nerve agent in high enough concentrations. So why have the eagle-eyed among you seen absinthe on the market in the States for the past few years? Did they fake it as with the Żubrówka? No, that’s what they did during the ban, though….A savvy chemist and absinthe devotee joined forces with a couple of lawyers and between them determined that well-made absinthe, all the way back to the Belle Epoque, lost its thujone in the final distillations, thus invalidating the ban, one brand at a time. We have real absinthe now, and the good stuff too!
Finally, the first author ever of a cocktail guide in 1862, bartender Jerry Thomas, included in his book another cocktail bitters of his own creation, which he administered in the many bars where he held court, and which he entitled “Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters.” I personally sought to recreate these, tracking down ingredients both common and arcane, with in-depth research as to which varieties he used. One common to medicines and bitters of Thomas’ era was snakeroot, and my research determined he used Virginia Snakeroot. The urgent FDA alert slowed me down a bit….by modern analysis, a few cases having made it QUITE clear, this particular serpentaria (aristolochia) causes renal failure in certain none-too-large concentrations! To paraphrase Saturday Night Live, “if they’re gonna pick on every little thing…”
In any event, my grand experiment was summarily abandoned. Now there IS a brand of “Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters” again on the market, from Germany. Since the FDA let it in, I assume it is not made with tried and true Virginian
10. Darryl Snow
Giant panda, pangolin, sharks, turtles, or indeed any endangered animal. We can eat any animals so they can all be classed as food.
It’s illegal to eat a swan in the UK on account of all swans being the personal property of the Queen – presumably roast swan is one of her guilty pleasures. Horse and dog meat is illegal in many countries; presumably cat meat would be illegal as well, despite being quite unpalatable anyway. Unpasteurised milk, delicious and nutritious though it is, is unfortunately illegal in most countries. It’s also illegal to take Durian into any public building in Malaysia on account of the pungent smell.
Some local food delicacies that involve preparation methods deemed cruel have been made illegal in some regions. Such foods include:
Drunken prawns – prawns literally doused in strong alcohol and served live (East China)
Foie Gras – the exploded livers of force-fed ducks or geese (France)
Small birds force fed and then drowned in brandy before being roasted (France)
Live sashimi – live fish that are skinned and sliced (Japan)
Maggot cheese – cheese that’s literally crawling with maggots when it’s served (Italy)
11. Raj Mehta
It is also known as the God of all fruits. But it has a foul odour. Writing this answer I am reminded of it, the first time Dad brought it to home, I was a kid and ran away from it.
It is illegal in certain countries. In several southeast Asian cities it is illegal to eat durian in a public place; in Singapore, it is illegal to bring durian into hotels, subways, airports, and any other form of public transportation. It is also illegal to transport fresh durian into the United States (though frozen durian is legal to sell).
image – Flickr / zolmuhd
Posto: One of Bengali’s favorite dish. Made from poppy seeds, it is used to prepare many dishes, the most loved being aloo posto. Being made from opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is enough reason to be banned in most part of the world.
Tortoise meat: This has been banned since the animal was becoming endangered. But in many parts you still get illegal tortoise meat.
13. Ryan Anderson
It’s illegal to eat Civet Cat in China after the SARS epidemic – they also outlawed serving many types of wild animals that had previously been eaten in Guangdong province..and others.
14. Sandra Nola
Home-distilled moonshine whiskey or grain alcohol is still illegal in the US. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will shut down your still just like during Prohibition if you sell home-distilled grain alcohol without a commercial license, inspections and all that jazz.
15. Hussein Khalifa
In Saudi Arabia they have now banned Lucky Charms cereals because the marshmallows may be made using gelatin derived from pork.
In the U.S. the sale of unpasteurized milk products is heavily restricted so “real cheese” is hard to come by. Also wild game is almost impossible to find because of a ban on products hunted for fear of finding shot in one’s pheasant or wild turkey.
16. Belldon Colme
The most disturbing answers to this question, at least in my view, concern foods that ought to be encouraged, and are banned in the US primarily in support of huge corporate food interests over and above the best interests of the public.
RAW FOODS Many raw foods, that is to say unprocessed, straight from the tree (or animal) foods.
Almonds, for instance, must be treated in California, and it is illegal to sell them raw, straight from the tree. Specifically, almonds must be pasteurized, or super-heated. This process helps huge almond growers to minimize contaminants caused mostly by sloppy handling of nuts, however it also kills essential nutrients found naturally in almonds and hurts small growers who serve mostly local individual buyers.
Many states have assaulted raw milk producers, usually at gunpoint, for selling raw milk to individuals who seek it out. There is no doubt at all that raw milk is much healthier for people than today’s ultra-pasteurized, separated and additive-ridden commercial product. Making it illegal is irresponsible (there are absolutely zero modern documented cased of illness outbreak attributable to small raw milk producers- the only outbreaks have been from huge commercial dairy farms with sloppy hygiene) yet again helping huge businesses at the expense of public health and small farm viability.
These examples are a small sampling of the widespread attack on real, honest, unprocessed foods in America by our government at the behest of Big Food lobbyists.
FOOD ADDITIVES I often hear the outcry, “Why are poisonous food additives legal in America while they are *illegal* in most of the remaining developed and developing world?” Well, in truth most of our food additives are NOT legal in America and folks ought to understand what is happening to their food supply and why.
In 1930 the US Congress enacted the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Safety Act, commonly known as the FDC or FD&C, in response to 100 deaths caused by a pharmaceutical additive. The Act provided tough criteria a proposed additive must meet or exceed in order to be approved for human use either orally or in products applied topically.
You can easily identify additives meeting FD&C requirements, because they are preceded by “FD&C”. For example, “FD&C yellow #5″. You do not see those letters often, though, do you? That is because the vast majority of our food, drug and cosmetic additives are NOT legal. By using an FDA bypass to the law known as GRAS (generally recognized as safe), Big Food, Pharma and Cosmetic concerns can simply hire a few “experts”, pay them to testify that an additive is GRAS and boom goes the dynamite, it is in your food.
A great example is a chemical known as Calcium Disodium EDTA. It sounds benign, unless maybe it is instead called Calcium Disodium Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, which sounds a lot scarier. And it should. This is a combination of sodium cyanide, formaldehyde and a heavy metals chelating agent. Far from being safe, it is on the FDA watch list for “further study”, having been directly linked to genetic mutation, birth defects, multi-generational DNA restructuring, cancer and countless other diseases and even death on numerous occasions.
The FDA advises limiting use to 1/10th of an ounce a day, and NEVER to use this poison for more than 5 consecutive days. Do we achieve that? Well, you be the judge. This poison is found in everything we use every day, including mayonnaise, creamy salad dressings, sports drinks, breads and cereals ‘fortified with iron’, sun screen, bath soaps, shampoo, moisturizers, foundations and blush, toothpaste, a host of drugs and so many other daily use items I cannot enumerate them here.
What foods are illegal in America? Almost everything that comes in a box, jar, bag or any other packaging. We just don’t know it.
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