The hectic lifestyle of the modern 21st century man is not easy on our health. We just keep on abusing it. International cuisine has many savory dishes to brag about, each country has its own culinary habits, and each culture has a different sense of taste. Every single day we consume foods that contain potentially harmful ingredients which can prove hazardous to our health and we don’t even know it. Some are considered such a threat, that certain countries simply decided to ban them.
Not all food bans share the same health concern, and there are cases in which foods became illegal because they either use endangered species of animals as their main ingredient, the cooking process is considered inhumane, or simply due to the country’s radical policies. Take Roquefort cheese for example, the stinky French delicacy, that has been banned in Australia and New Zealand until 2005, all because Aussies didn’t quite get the taste of it, and the only logical solution was to make it illegal. As a general rule, it seems Europe’s favorite dishes are banned in the US, and conversely.
Around 80% of the processed food packed and sold in markets across the US are now banned in other countries around the world and the FDA doesn’t seem concerned about it. What is wrong with this picture? If you are coming down with the flu, you don’t need to see your doctor anymore. In the US, 80% of known antibiotics are used in cow and other animal meat.
A species of bay originating in North America, sassafrass leaves are used to spice up various dishes. No danger here. However, there is a certain product obtained from its root, sassafras essential oil, that was once used to flavor beer and other beverages in the U.S. In 1960, the oil was banned when it was discovered that one of its ingredients could cause liver cancer.
Ask any Scot and they’ll tell you whiskey, the Loch Ness Monster, and haggis are the symbols of their country. But what is haggis? First of all, a delicacy. Second, it is made of sheep lung mixed with other organs, all cooked in the animal’s stomach. Thirdly, it is banned in the U.S. due to a law against sheep lung commercialization.
15. Kinder Surprise Eggs
Want to go to the store and buy your kid a Kinder Egg? Surprise! You can’t. At least, not in the Unites States. You’d think it’s all because the little toy inside is considered dangerous, a possible chocking hazard. Wrong again! The reason for the ban is simply that the product contains a non-edible object enclosed by an edible one, and the FDA simply doesn’t like the idea.
14. Unpasteurized Milk
Widely available and consumed in Europe, unpasteurized or raw milk is often considered much tastier and more nutritious than thermally processed milk. Yet, it was banned in 22 U.S. states and in Canada for fear it may spread listeriosis, Salmonella, E-coli, and Campylobacter, as well as germs. The law applies not just to milk, but to all unpasteurized dairy products.
A traditional dish across the Horn of Africa and India, samosas are a spicy triangular snack made from fried dough filled with meat or vegetables. They have been banned in Somalia because they are considered ‘”too Christian” and “offensive” by Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab group, due to its shape which they believe resembles the Holy Trinity. They recently announced the decision using loudspeakers mounted on vehicles all across the country.
Olestra, or Olean, is a synthetic calorie and cholesterol free substitute for fat used in snacks like potato chips and French fries. Created and produced by Procter & Gamble, it was banned in the UK and Canada because it can cause intestinal problems like cramps, diarrhea, and leaking bowels, while preventing the body from properly absorbing vitamins and nutrients.
11. Pink Slime
Its name sounds just as disgusting as it actually is. Pink Slime is the name given to a paste made from various meat scraps that were once considered appropriate only as dog food. The meat is soaked in ammonia to make it pinker. Pink slime is still the main ingredient in burger meat and hot dog sausages in the U.S. The EU banned it for human consumption.
10. Bread with Potassium Bromate
Used as a baking agent, potassium bromate is used to make bread dough more elastic, and shorten the time it requires to rise. Consumption of bread with potassium bromate can lead to kidney failure, nervous system dysfunctions, digestive disorders, thyroid problems, and cancer, which is why it was banned in the EU, Canada, Brazil, and China.
9. Sports Drinks and Citrus-Flavored Sodas
BVO stands for Brominated Vegetable Oil, a synthetic chemical that was originally patented as a flame retardant. It is the same ingredient most citrus-flavored sodas and sports drinks in the US have in common. It has been banned in over 100 countries, including the EU, because it has been shown to cause thyroid dysfunctions, facilitate autoimmune diseases, affect the growth process, and lead to schizophrenia.
8. Farm Raised Salmon
Everyone thinks salmon is a healthy meat, which is true if it comes from its natural habitat. However, farm raised salmon is fed an unnatural menu of grains mixed with antibiotics and other drugs. This “magic” concoction tampers the color of the fish’s flesh, making it gray. But wait, producers add astaxanthin to make it pink again, a substance made from petrochemicals, not approved for human consumption. Still, the FDA seems fine with it. Farm raised salmon is banned in Australia and New Zealand.
7. Ractopamine Tainted Meat
Ractopamine is a synthetic additive commonly used to increase muscle mass in animals. A similar substance is also used in treating asthma. Ractopamine can lead to obesity, heart conditions, insomnia, headaches, and spasms. Not surprisingly, it was banned in 160 countries, including the EU, Russia, and China. Yet, it is still used in over 45% of pigs, 30% of cattle, and even in turkeys in the US. Around 20% of the ractopamine ingested by the animals remains in the meat we buy from the supermarket.
6. Arsenic Fed Chicken
Ask anyone to name the first poison that comes to their minds, and they will say arsenic. So why on Earth use it in our food? Simple: factory chicken are given arsenic to make their meat more pink, looking fresh much longer. Arsenic leads to cancer, which is why arsenic fed chickens were banned in the EU. Still, the FDA approves arsenic in US chickens because they say it is “organic arsenic,” less dangerous than the inorganic one.
Prepared from the leaves of a variety of wormwood, absinthe is an exceptionally strong alcoholic beverage. Records point to 1797 as the year it was first marketed, but its exact origins remain a mystery. Absinthe is believed to stimulate creativity, but it can also cause hallucinations and aggressive behavior. France, the very country it is believed to have originated from, has put a ban on the beverage for over 100 years. In 2011, the Senate voted it back on the market. Absinthe will most likely forever remain illegal in the US, New Zealand, and Australia.
4. Casu Marzu
The equivalent of that stinky rotten cheese the French love so much, Casu Marzu is a traditional delicacy in Sardinia. In translation, it means “rotten cheese.” It is prepared by injecting larvae of flies inside Pecorino cheese. The larvae digest the cheese, bringing it to a whole new level of fermentation. Most of the time, Casu Marzu is consumed with the larvae still inside, in which case it becomes quite dangerous. Gastric acid does not destroy the larvae, which can end up in the intestines, attacking the organs, which is why the rotten cheese was banned in the US and the EU.
3. Fugu Fish
Fugu is the Japanese name for Puffer Fish, the world’s most venomous invertebrate. Its meat is considered a delicacy in Japan and Korea. Unfortunately, when not cooked properly, it can become lethal. Even the most skilled cooks need three years of training to master its secrets. Fugu contains a dangerous neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. When prepared incorrectly, the toxin remains in the fish, paralyzing the muscles, leading to asphyxiation. There’s no antidote. Only a few milligrams, and you’re dead. No surprise it’s been banned in the EU.
2. Foie Gras
Foie Gras is the French name of a famous delicacy, and what you see is what you get, as it means exactly “fatty liver.” It is made from duck or goose liver. Nothing spectacular so far. Except the birds are tortured, forced to eat four to five pounds of food per day using a metallic tube thrust down their neck. The procedure is repeated days in a row, until the bird develops a condition that causes the liver to become 10 times larger. The liver is then kept in milk and honey to give it a special flavor. Due to the cruelty the animals are treated with, and because it is considered inhumane to eat the liver of a tortured being, foie gras has been banned in 14 countries, including several US states.
For thousands of years, this small singing bird the size of a sparrow has been tortured to make a special delicacy served to the nobles of France. After it is captured, it is either thrown into a very small dark cage, or its eyes are plucked out, as darkness determines it to eat more. The ortolan is fattened until it becomes four times heavier than its normal weight. When it reaches the optimum weight, it is drowned in brandy and is fried to be eaten as a whole. Ortolans are currently threatened by extinction, and hunting them is now illegal in France. Unfortunately, the black market continues to kill approximately 50,000 each year.