America might be the land of the free, but when it comes to food, Uncle Sam has put up a few restrictions. If you live in the United States and have a hankering for haggis or horse meat, you’ll have to hop the pond. For others, you’ll have to head to Africa or Asia. As Americans, we can enjoy endless, delicious food options at a moment’s notice, so we may wonder why anyone would want to eat some of this stuff anyway. Paralysis-causing puffer fish? Fatality-causing fruit? No thank you! We’ll take a Whopper.

Here are 15 foods illegal in the United States:

Horse Meat

Horse meat is actually a fairly popular food in other countries. Travel to Mexico, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, China or Poland, and you’ll find people eating it without a second thought. But in the U.S. slaughtering horses for food is considered illegal, as is the importation of horse meat.

Unpasteurized Milk

Unpasteurized milk, otherwise known as raw milk, hasn’t gone through the pasteurization process that kills harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Campylobacter, so it’s 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness, according to the FDA. The states are split on this one — raw milk is banned in 20 states over the safety concern.

Shark Fins

The practice of shark finning is a cruel process that involves catching a shark, slicing off its fins, and tossing the body back in the ocean, where it will suffer and die. (A shark that can’t swim effectively to move water over its gills will sink to the bottom of the ocean and suffocate.) Eating sharks isn’t illegal in the U.S., but if the meat is acquired in this way it is. Unfortunately, shark fin soup in extremely popular in China and its territories, which drives the market. It’s hard to gauge, but it’s estimated that upwards of 100 million sharks are killed every year by finning. The removal of so many oceanic apex predators has caused catastrophic harm to the marine ecosystem.

Kinder Surprise Chocolate Eggs

Kinder Surprise Chocolate Eggs are extremely popular with children in Europe thanks to the delicious candy and the fun toy inside. Despite their international success, Kinder Surprise eggs are prohibited in the U.S. because they contain non-edible items. Basically, the U.S. is concerned kids might mistake the toy stuffed inside the egg for candy, since there is no barrier between the two. In 2018, the U.S. did get a version of the Kinder Surprise, called the Kinder Joy. Both halves of the hollow egg are sealed to keep them away from the candy, making them compliant with FDA regulations.

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Sassafras Oil

Sassafras is a common plant in the U.S., yet the oil has been banned since the 1960s over concerns that it could cause cancer. At one time, the oil was used for flavoring traditional root beer, but artificial flavorings or other flavorings have gained favor.

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Japanese puffer fish

The U.S. doesn’t want you anywhere near a Japanese Puffer fish, also known as fugu — but for a good reason. It’s so difficult to cook that you actually need some serious training and a license to do so. If not properly prepared, the deadly amounts of tetrodotoxin in the fish can paralyze your body, cause you to stop breathing, and kill you. Pass on the puffer fish sushi, please.

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#haggis #firsttime #freemason

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In 1971, the United States’ FDA banned foods containing lungs — and with it went your chances of trying haggis here. The savory pudding popular in Scotland is made with sheep lung. While there has been some talk of lifting the ban, it has yet to happen.

15 foods that are illegal in the United States


It’s the national fruit of nearby Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal in the U.S. If not prepared properly, the toxins in this fruit native to West Africa can cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low, causing coma or even death. While it has quite an interesting look, maybe we should all just stick to less fatal fruit.


This fragile songbird from France weighing less than an ounce was served to the rich and royal since Roman times — until it became illegal in 1999. The procedure for preparing the tiny bird is controversial. They are kept in darkness for weeks or are blinded, causing them to gorge and become increasingly fat. They’re then cooked alive in a vat of Armagnac brandy, then roasted. While the method is extremely upsetting, that’s not why they’re illegal. They’ve been considered an endangered and protected species since 1979 due to over-hunting.

Sea Turtles

Throughout the Age of Exploration, sailors found turtle meat to be a lifesaver on long journeys. Living leftovers would make their way to Europe where adventurous aristocrats would buy them and have them cooked. Interest in the shelled sea creature as cuisine grew from there. By the mid-1800s, turtle became a popular protein with American home cooks. Demand for the slow-to-reproduce turtles became so great, that the animal population was pushed to the brink of extinction. Today, many species are threatened or endangered and importing or eating sea turtles for food, or any other purpose, is illegal.

Beluga Caviar

Like other foods on this list, Beluga caviar became so popular that it endangered the beluga sturgeon population. Importing and eating the caviar has been illegal since 2005. The salty snack was once one of the most expensive foods in the world, costing about $220 per ounce. The ban was lifted in the U.N. in 2007 but is still in effect in the U.S.

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#happyhalloween everyone! Pictured here is Casu Marzu, the spookiest cheese I know. Casu marzu is created by leaving whole pecorino cheeses outside with part of the rind removed to allow the eggs of the cheese fly Piophila caseito be laid in the cheese. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat through the cheese.The acid from the maggots' digestive system breaks down the cheese's fats, making the texture of the cheese very soft and even liquidy in places. By the time it is ready for consumption, a typical casu marzu will contain THOUSANDS of these maggots. #italiancheese #sheepcheese #pecorino #casumarzu #cheese #halloween #spooky #scary #cheeseplease #cheese101 ?: @lifestylesardinia

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Casu marzu

There’s no easy way to say this, but this cheese is full of live maggots — and that’s how you’re supposed to eat it! The maggots are used to help ripen the cheese and give it its strong, Gorgonzola-like flavor — but in reality, you’re tasting larvae excrement. Dead maggots are a sign that the cheese has gone bad. Also of note, it’s extremely important to thoroughly chew the cheese before swallowing, or live maggots that make their way into your stomach can rip holes in your intestines. Yikes! Needless to say, it’s illegal in the United States, but it’s also now illegal in the town it hails from, Sardinia, Italy.


Redfish, or Red Drum, was such a craze in the 1980s — perpetuated by renowned chef Paul Prudhomme when he introduced his redfish dish in his French Quarter restaurant K-Paul — that by 1986, the U.S. forced redfish fisheries to close to allow the population to rebuild. Eating redfish, a native of North America, is now banned in all states except Mississippi.


Bushmeat refers to any meat from animals hunted and slaughtered in rural Africa including antelopes, elephants, chimpanzees, gorillas and giraffes. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned the importation, selling, and consumption of such meat because it encourages illegal trading, but also because it can carry fatal diseases that aren’t otherwise common in the U.S.

Also see, This is how the ‘Continental Breakfast’ got its name.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.