Just because something is technically edible doesn’t mean we should eat it. And in some cases, it isn’t even legal for us to do so. The FDA has strictly regulated the consumption of certain foods, while others are outright banned.
In a country where even toxic foods are legal to consume, it’s difficult to balance rules and regulations with the desire to eat a healthy diet. Some banned foods are no-brainers, while others are foods that many people may not know aren’t safe to consume.
Find out everything you need to know about the FDA’s food bans right here.
How does a food become banned?
The FDA’s job is to help determine the food, cosmetics, and medications that are safe for human use or consumption. To make such determinations, the organization conducts studies and looks at data. For example, to monitor genetically engineered foods, the FDA created the Plant Biotechnology Consultation Program. In the program, they work with genetically engineered plant developers to ensure that foods made from new GE plant varieties are safe and lawful.
But which foods haven’t made the cut? Some of them might surprise you.
Next: This banned meat is a delicacy in other countries.
1. Horse meat
Technically, horse meat is not illegal to consume. However, since it is illegal to slaughter horses, we shouldn’t be eating it.
Next: You won’t believe what’s in this banned pudding.
Haggis is a savory pudding that contains sheep heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with spices and oats. Because it is traditionally served in a sheep’s stomach, the FDA has determined that it isn’t safe to consume.
Next: Got milk? It’s not this kind.
3. Unpasteurized milk
Next: You’ll probably side with the FDA on this one.
4. Casu marzu
This creamy cheese might look tasty, but it’s made by placing fly larvae into Pecorino cheese in order to speed up fermentation. And in order to reap the benefits of the creamy texture, you have to dig in before the maggots die. Wow.
Next: A banned fruit that could kill you
5. Ackee fruit
Ackee is the fruit of Jamaica, where it’s traditionally cooked with salted cod. But if it hasn’t ripened properly, it has high levels of hypoglycin A and B, which can cause both comas and death. Yikes.
The purple mangosteen, a coveted Thai fruit, was once banned because U.S. officials feared it would bring Asian fruit flies into the country. These days it isn’t banned entirely, but imports must be irradiated immediately.
Next: This fish is potentially deadly.
7. Japanese puffer fish
This fish is illegal to catch, serve, and eat in the U.S., and for good reason. If it’s not prepared properly, this fish will actually kill you due to the deadly amounts of tetrodotoxin in it.
Next: These kid-friendly treats are actually dangerous.
8. Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs
These European chocolate eggs come with an inedible toy hidden inside in a plastic capsule. Although the FDA has ruled the toys a choking hazard and banned the eggs, rumor has it that they will be allowed in the country in 2018.
Next: But what about blue fish?
The redfish was always rare, but when a famed New Orleans chef published a recipe for it in 1980, it wound up on the endangered species list. Sales were limited, and today, it’s banned in every state except Mississippi.
Next: This fancy food is a no-no in the U.S.
10. Wild beluga caviar
Overfishing is what caused the United Stated to ban imports of beluga caviar, starting in 2005. But considering it sold for $200 an ounce before the ban, most Americans are probably fine with that.
Next: This high end meat dish is quite controversial.
11. Foie gras
Producing foie gras, which is the liver of a duck or goose that has been intentionally fattened, involves force-feeding birds more food than they would voluntarily eat. Needless to say, this has caused quite a controversy. Therefore, foie gras remains banned in several states and several other countries.
Next: This is an Asian delicacy, but it’s rare in the U.S.
12. Shark fins
Consuming shark fins isn’t illegal, but the act of “shark finning,” removing the fins and releasing the shark back into the ocean, is a big no-no. The Chinese love their shark fin soup, but you’ll rarely find it here.
Next: Skip this oil for your health.
13. Sassafrass Oil
If you haven’t ever seen this oil on your grocery store shelves, that’s because it has been banned by the FDA since the 1960s. Scientific evidence found that safrole, a phenylpropen found in the oil, is a potential carcinogen.
Next: Will the FDA ban these foods next?
Other countries ban these foods, but they’re allowed in the U.S.
Despite the FDA’s strict regulations, there are some additives and preservatives that we allow in our food that other countries don’t. In the U.S., synthetic growth hormones rBGH and rBST were approved for use in cows, artificial dyes like Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40 are used here, and azodicarbonamid is used in bread. All of these things are banned in Europe.
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