Fun fact: according to Consumer Reports, head to the average grocery store, and you’ll be faced with with an almost overwhelming choice of around 47,000 products. 74 varieties of Campbell’s soup, anyone? Of  course, if you don’t find what you want there, you can check out the ever-expanding menus at restaurants everywhere.

With all that variety, it’s almost comforting to know that there actually are some foods you just can’t buy. Legally, that is. The USDA, FDA, and various state governments all regulate foods that can be imported into or sold in the United States. They make some illegal for various reasons, but usually to preserve health and safety or to protect endangered species.

What kinds of foods wind up outlawed? Some of them are exotic, as you might expect, but you’ve probably heard of others. Check out these:

  1. Raw Milk

    Raw milk hasn’t gone through the pasteurization process, where it’s heated to kill any harmful bacteria. The FDA has banned the general sale of raw milk, out of concern for public safety. In 21 states, you can still buy it in small amounts, but only directly from the farm.

  2. Kinder Surprise Eggs

    This one’s a bummer, because these are so fun! The hollow chocolate eggs with a small toy hidden inside come from Germany. The FDA doesn’t like the idea of people biting into a potential choking hazard, so many of these eggs aren’t available in the US. However, there’s a new variety (Kinder Joy) set to come out in 2018 with the FDA’s thumbs-up.

  3. Shark Fins

    Wondering who eats shark fins? Actually, shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in many areas. However, the brutal and illegal practice of “finning,” where some shark fishers slice off the fin and return the rest of the shark to the water, has made this food banned in 11 states.

  4. Beluga Caviar

    Many varieties of caviar, a delicious seafood snack, are completely legal. However, beluga caviar comes from an endangered species of the sturgeon fish. Thankfully, it’s been illegal to import it into the U.S. since 2005.

  5. Fugu

    This variety of puffer fish is legendary. Supposedly, eating it can have an intoxicating effect. But if it’s prepared incorrectly, it can be deadly. No surprise that it’s generally illegal! Even in Japan, where you can purchase it in a restaurant, fugu chefs have to undergo 3 years of rigorous training before they can serve it.

  6. Redfish

    Overfishing caused this tasty fish to nearly become extinct. It’s now illegal to sell redfish in every state except Mississippi.

  7. Queen Conch

    Yet another sea creature that almost became extinct due to overfishing.

  8. Sassafras

    This plant was once used for everything from traditional medicine to flavoring root beer. Researchers eventually found out that a substance in it called safrole may be carcinogenic (cancer-causing), so the use of it since then has been limited.

  9. Ackee

    This fruit is native to West Africa, but also popular in Jamaica. If it’s not ripened properly, however, it can be toxic — eating the fruit can cause your blood glucose to dip to dangerous levels. Good reason for it to be banned in the USA!

  10. Ortolan

    This cute little bird was once prepared in all sorts of dishes. Like the redfish, the ortolan was almost hunted to extinction. It’s now illegal to eat it in the USA and the European Union.

  11. Sea Turtles

    Believe it or not, some people want to eat this endangered species! Since it’s protected, however, doing so is against the law.

  12. Horse Meat

    Yep, that’s what we said: horse meat. In some parts of the world, it’s perfectly normal, But the U.S., the law says “no way.”

  13. Haggis

    Haggis is sheep’s stomach stuffed with yummy things like onions and … lungs … It’s a proud national dish of Scotland. Since the USDA hasn’t allowed lungs to be served as food since 1971, you’ll have to travel there if you want to try it.

There you have it: a baker’s dozen of foods from nearby and around the world, all banned in the U.S. Have you tried any of these? Are you tempted to?


Reader’s Digest

Consumer Reports