Foods That Are Banned in America



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You Can't Eat This

The ban on specific foods in the United States can stem from a range of concerns, from animal welfare to health to mere social convention. Here is a list of foods you could never find, foods under very strict regulations, and foods you may hope to never see. Reader beware: Some of the food items described may be the result of shocking or unnerving processes. 

Related: The True Origins of 19 Classic 'American' Foods

Close up image of glass of milk

Raw Milk

The sale of raw milk, or unpasteurized milk, is banned by the FDA across state lines because of its potential for carrying pathogens. But that does not mean it is impossible to get your hands on the stuff. Its sale is regulated on a state-by-state level with Pennsylvania, for example, selling it for human consumption, while other states only permit its sale for animal consumption.

Related: 35 Foods That Are Dangerous If Not Prepared Properly

Tonka Beans

Tonka Beans

This wrinkly legume from South America underwent a recent boom in the fine-dining world due to its notes of vanilla, almond, and cinnamon, but it has actually been illegal in the U.S. since 1954. This is due to the presence of the chemical compound coumarin in the bean. Coumarin has been linked to liver failure, but only at unreasonably high concentrations.

Related: 15 Spices and Spice Blends That Will Make Almost Any Meal Better

Mustard Oil

Mustard Oil

If you have ever scanned the oil section of an Indian or Bangladeshi grocer, you may have noticed large bottles of mustard oil bearing the cautionary label "For External Use Only." Mustard oil is a commonplace ingredient in northern Indian cooking, but has been found to contain high levels of erucic acid, which has been found to cause heart disease in animals. 

Related: Exotic Condiments to Add Zing to Meals

Shark Fins

Shark Fins

While shark fins have been considered a delicacy for hundreds of years, the practice of obtaining them is unbelievably cruel. Fishermen will catch sharks, remove their fins, and then release the sharks back into the water. Only in 2019 did the House of Representatives pass a bill banning the commercial trade of shark fins in the U.S.

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Kinder Surprise Eggs

Kinder Surprise Eggs

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits non-food items from being encased within confections, due to choking hazards. This means that Kinder Surprise, chocolate eggs containing tiny toys, are banned in the U.S. Carrying them across the border or importing them illegally could result in thousands of dollars in fines. Fortunately, for fans of these forbidden chocolate eggs, the company unveiled Kinder Joy, a similar treat that is permitted in the U.S. since the candy and the toy are kept separate. While the chocolate candy isn't quite the same as it's international counterpart, the approximation is close enough for many fans. 



These tiny and beautiful birds are considered a delicacy in France, but when their population declined to threateningly low numbers in 1999, their hunting and consumption was banned in France. The U.S., in an effort to curb illegal trading and to support the French ruling, also banned their import and consumption.


Sassafras Oil

Sassafras used to be a primary ingredient in root beer, and is also used to make teas and as an aromatic in Louisiana Creole cooking. But the FDA has linked safrole, a major component of sassafras oil, to cancer in animal studies, leading to the ban of sassafras oil in commercial food products. But you will still occasionally see foraged sassafras leaves or roots appearing on menus across the country. Sassafras oil and safrole are also sometimes used in the manufacture of MDMA, an illicit drug. 

Horsemeat finely chopped, seasoned with black pepper, preparing steak tartare, or minced steak, close up, selective focus

Horse Meat

Shockingly, there is no federal ban on horse meat, but several states do prohibit its commercial sale. Meanwhile, other states, like Texas, support a large horse-raising industry, shipping horses to Canada or Mexico to get slaughtered. Although surrounded by taboo in the U.S., horse meat is readily available and even prized in other countries like Spain and Slovenia. 

Fugu Fish

Fugu Fish

Fugu, or Japanese Blowfish, holds a lethal poison in its internal organs, meaning it has to be expertly butchered and processed in order to be safe for consumption. The U.S. only allows the import of fugu from certified processors in Japan, where it is quickly frozen before being shipped. Considered a delicacy, fugu can be found on some of the most exclusive Japanese menus in the country.



While not all haggis is illegal in the United States, the most traditional version cannot be imported from the UK. Haggis is a sausage-like mix of offal encased in an animal's stomach, typically sheep. Per the most traditional recipes, haggis contains lungs, the consumption of which is illegal in the U.S. In response, several Scottish companies have started making lung-less haggis right here in the U.S.

Related: 40 Delicious Breakfasts From Around the World

A bunch of ripe Ackee on a tree in a garden in Nevis West Indies

Ackee Fruit

Related to lychee, ackee fruit is popular in Jamaican and West African cooking, where it is used in savory cooking much the same way you may use plantain or tomatoes. While importing canned and processed ackee is legal in the U.S., there is a ban on the fresh fruit. This is due to high levels of hypoglycin, which can lead to hypoglycemia, in the unripe fruit.  

Casu Marzu, a type of cheese.
Casu Marzu, a type of cheese. by Shardan (CC BY-SA)

Casu Marzu

It is not clear why anyone would want to import this in the first place, but you will not find the ban on this peculiar cheese at all surprising. Casu Marzu, native to the Italian island of Sardinia, is essentially a pecorino that is exposed to fly larvae, which expedite the rotting process and leave behind a creamy, stinky, and maggot-ridden cheese. 

Related: The Funkiest Cheeses in the World



Sure, you may be seeing absinthe on the shelves of your liquor store, but it is far from the stuff of legends that describe hallucinations and other spiritual events. Since 2007, absinthe has been sold in the U.S. with regulated levels of thujone, a compound found in wormwood, a primary ingredient of absinthe, that has been linked to seizures and hallucinations.

Related: Why You Should Add Absinthe to Your Home Bar 

Hawksbill turtle

Sea Turtles

Turtle soup is one of those things you hear about but never see. While turtle meat may have once been commonplace, sea turtles quickly became endangered due to over-hunting and consumption. Sea turtles are now protected under the Endangered Species Act, and their removal from their natural habitat is considered a federal offense. 

Queen Conch

Queen Conch

Imagine the most majestic, almost cartoonish, seashell you can fathom. That is what a queen conch looks like, and one of the reasons behind their overfishing in the 1970s. They belong to the same family as clams or oysters, serving the same purpose on the table. Besides their import being banned in the U.S., it is also illegal to harvest queen conch in the state of Florida.

Related: 27 Unusual Canned Foods You Might Actually Want to Eat

Foie Gras
margouillat photo/shutterstock

Foie Gras

Foie gras is not banned everywhere in the U.S., but a few places have initiated or implemented complete bans on the luxurious product due to animal welfare. In California, for example, the force-feeding of birds, which is how foie gras is made, is entirely illegal. Chicago, on the other hand, has entirely banned the sale of foie gras products. In 2019, the New York City Council voted to ban foie gras derived from force-feeding by 2022.

Related: 30 Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try

Blackened Redfish and Hush Puppies
Blackened Redfish and Hush Puppies by Steve Wertz (CC BY-NC-ND)


Cajun-style blackened redfish was all the craze in the 1980s, causing the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to institute a strict ban on catching redfish due to rapidly declining populations. Designated a protected game fish in 2007, redfish have been slowly recovering, with some allowances in fishing emerging in recent years.  

Bird's nest soup
Bird's nest soup by Robert Staudhammer (CC BY-SA)

Bird's Nest Soup

Believe it or not, but some bird's nests are edible, including those of the Indian swiftlet. The nests are primarily made out of the bird's saliva and are often sold for thousands of dollars per pound. While they are considered a rare delicacy in Chinese cuisine, especially in soup, the U.S. holds severe import restrictions against bird's nests due to the fear of avian flu.

Related: The Truth Behind 29 Urban Food Legends

Bushmeat by CIFOR (CC BY-NC-ND)


Bushmeat, or any wild game hunted in Africa, is completely banned in the U.S. This is, in part, a measure enacted to discourage the hunting of wild animal populations and endangered species, but has also resulted from the potential for wild game to carry pathogens. Most notably, the CDC links the spread of Ebola to bushmeat packaging or butchering processes.