Just because it’s edible, doesn’t mean it’s legal.
At one moment or another, we have probably all said it: “I would never eat that!”
Just as people around the world have different customs and beliefs, we also all have different food preferences and different ideas as to what we consider “weird” or downright “disgusting.” Culture and traditions in different countries also dictate what types of foods generally are considered delicacies, and so while people in China may enjoy chicken feet, many Americans would shrug away a plate of these crispy bites. But with some foods and drinks, it is more than just a question of preference: Countries all over the world have their own lists of edible items that are banned from being imported or consumed.
There has been much talk about the U.S. government allowing Americans to consume ingredients that are banned in other countries, many of which are potentially harmful to our health. But on the other side of it, there are several food items other countries happily eat, which in the United States are put on the “No” list.
Federal and state governments in the States have either fully or partially banned several items, some of which might seem obvious — like the deadly Japanese blowfish — while others, quite surprising. Until this year, the popular European Kinder Surprise toy-filled chocolate egg was banned in the U.S., as the government thought the hidden toy was too dangerous for children. The legality of other items is still being debated: Formerly banned horse meat is slowly finding its way back to the legal side of meat industry, while the sought-after delicacy foie gras has been banned in California.
The traditional Scottish staple Haggis has been banned in America since 1971, as the USDA put a restriction on eating one of its main ingredients, sheep’s lung. The dish, a savory “pudding,” also includes ingredients such as sheep’s heart and liver, and is cooked in a sheep’s stomach.
The Sardinian specialty Casu Marzu, or “Maggot Cheese,” is prepared by letting a type of cheese fly lay eggs in pecorino cheese, promoting advanced fermentation. As the larvae hatch and eat through the cheese, it softens, and is ready to be eaten. The possible health risks of eating larvae, as well as the fact that the cheese is unpasteurized, makes it illegal in the U.S. In Italy, it remains legal due to its status established by the European Union as a “traditional food.”
Shark fins are a Chinese delicacy, but the often cruel fishing methods — slicing, or “finning,” the shark’s fin and letting the shark back in the water to die — has raised opposition for the sales of the food item. In America, finning is illegal, but imported shark fins are still allowed except in California, where a total ban on both sales and distribution is in place.
Sassafras oil, an oil taken from the bark of the sassafras tree, used to be an ingredient in root beer. But after research showed that the ingredient could cause cancer, a ban on sassafras oil was set in effect in the 1960s.
Pig’s Blood Cake
The Taiwanese food-specialty of pig’s blood and rice mixed together and put on a stick is banned by the USDA, as the preparation method is considered “unsanitary.” Still, tourists and locals seems to enjoy this dish, but for now — not in the U.S.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.