Countries often ban certain foods for dietary, environmental, cultural, or even economic-related reasons. Most countries have their own organizations that regulate how food is harvested, manufactured, sold, and consumed. These groups seek to ensure that food is safe for consumption. Interestingly, while one country may deem certain products unhealthy or in violation of certain laws, another may see it as perfectly fine.
Even though particular foods are banned in a country, the rest of the world still continues to dig into unhealthy foods. As the world’s population faces many increasing illnesses and deaths caused by food, people are becoming more concerned. Oftentimes, the concern leads to research, which then leads to bills being proposed and laws being passed. Many foods that have been found to have direct links to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a slew of other maladies are surprisingly still being made and sold to consumers.
All of us at some level know that we should be paying more attention to the labels on our food, but we don’t. Instead, we trust that the foods available to us in grocery stores are chosen with our best interest at heart. In many cases, though, nothing could be further from the truth. If we're truly concerned about our health, we should make a vested effort to pay attention to our plates and eat only foods made with safe, simple, natural ingredients. This article features some of the foods banned from countries across the world. Which one surprises you the most?
20 Colorful Food Dyes
In 2010, The use of food dyes on products marketed for infants and young children was banned in Europe. Foods that are more aesthetically pleasing tend to fly off the shelves. Foods that are dull and drab do poorly in sales. No wonder food manufacturers have been making foods with unnaturally bright shades of yellow, red, blue, and a slew of other colors. Artificial coloring is much cheaper than natural coloring derived from foods grown in nature. The 2007 Lancet study showed that food dyes caused increased hyperactivity in children who were otherwise healthy. Most countries ignored the results of the study although many within the scientific community cosigned the results.
19 Arsenic-laced Chickens
Arsenic is a poison. So, why is it in chicken? Well, some of the drugs fed to chickens to increase their growth spurt contain arsenic. In addition to forcing the birds to fatten up at an unnatural rate, these drugs also give their flesh a pinker hue. It's been introduced to commercial chicken feed in the United States. The EU has banned the sale of arsenic-laced feeds and the sale and consumption of chickens that have consumed the feed. Some researchers have said that there's no evidence to suggest that the small amount of arsenic in the feed poses real threats to the health of the chickens or humans. Even so, the thought of arsenic in any food, no matter how small the amount, is unsettling.
18 Kinder Surprise Eggs
These chocolate delights are a trap–literally. There's an inedible object in the center of Kinder eggs. They can cause people, especially children, to choke, so it's been banned in the United States. This hasn’t prevented people from smuggling them into the States. Since Kinder eggs are legal in Canada and Mexico, people bring them to the States all the time. The toys that are hidden in the center of a Kinder Egg contain a “non-nutritive object,” and this is why it's off limits to people in the States. People caught with Kinder eggs while crossing the border into the States can potentially be detained and fined up to $1,200 per egg.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hates ketchup with a passion. Ketchup is a companion to so many of our favorite foods from hot dogs to fries. Well, ketchup is heavily regulated in schools in France. The country wants to ensure that children are getting their daily dietary requirement. This means that children don't have free access to ketchup (mayonnaise and vinegar are also regulated). If a food requires ketchup, it has to be added directly onto the food by those serving lunches. This rule became effective in 2011 as one of the steps taken to cut the fat intake of children.
This fish has the distinct displeasure of being called one of the most dangerous fish in the world. If prepared incorrectly and consumed, one’s demise is certain. It's eaten in Japan and Japanese-inspired restaurants around the world. It contains tetrodotoxin, which is 1,200 times more lethal than cyanide. A pint-size amount is enough to have you pushing daisies. This is why it's illegal to sell or prepare fugu in the United States unless you have a license. Chefs who prepare fugu have undergone three or more years of rigorous training. The chefs reduce the amount of tetrodotoxin in fugu before cooking it. Many other countries such as Japan also regulate the sale, preparation, and consumption of this potentially deadly meal.
15 Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and the EU ban the use of the rBGH hormone in milk production. The hormone is genetically engineered and is used to increase milk production in cows. On many farms, cows endure inhumane conditions. As such, they produce less milk or sometimes none at all. rBGH is injected into low-producing cows. The cows given the hormone often develop mastitis–swollen, infected udders. It's quite painful for cows, but how does it affect humans? Antibiotic resistance and, according to some studies, cancer are risks that rBGH pose to consumers.
14 Artificial Trans Fat
In September 2018, Canada officially banned artificial trans fats from all food items. Hydrogenated oils, which are the main source of trans fats, were added to the “List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances.” This is a huge step for the health groups in the country. Trans fat is found in many pastries, potato chips, doughnuts, margarine, fast-food items, and much more. Trans fat poses a health risk because it clogs the heart and increases the level of bad cholesterol in the body. Although the ban came into effect this year, establishments have a grace period of two years to clear their stock of already purchased products containing trans fat. Trans fat is also banned or regulated in Belgium, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.
13 Azodicarbonamide (ADA)
Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a chemical used to make yoga mats and baked bread. Yes, you read that correctly. You're eating a chunk of yoga mat each time you chow down on bread containing ADA! That statement was a bit drastic, though. The truth of the matter is that ADA is used to whiten, strengthen, and condition dough. ADA gives the bread a white, light, and fluffy appearance. It also makes it a bit hard to chew. In 2014, Subway decided to phase out the use of ADA in their bread. Other chains that have removed ADA include Wendy’s and McDonald’s. It's been banned in Europe as well. ADA is carcinogenic. Since it isn't a necessary component in bread production, it’s hard to understand why it's still being fed to consumers.
12 Chewing Gum
Who doesn’t love a good piece of gum? In 1992, Singapore banned chewing gum because the country wanted to maintain clean streets, free of blemish. People caught selling gum risk spending 2 years in prison or being fined $1,000. It’s not a stretch to say that most people in the world have seen a sidewalk, a wall, or a window laden with dried, caked-on pieces of gum. They're an eyesore, so yes, we can understand the nuisance they pose to cleanliness initiatives. This ban is just one of many laws the country has regarding keeping public spaces clean. However, it's legal for tourists to bring 1-2 packs into the country for personal use. Dentists also sell therapeutic gum that's prescribed to patients. However, people can be fined if they're caught littering public spaces with gum. So, if you visit Singapore, chew your gum, but keep it in your mouth, and when you're done, safely toss it into a bin... or else.
11 Farm-Raised Salmon
Salmon—one of the tastiest treats from the sea. The wild salmon population has been threatened by salmon farming for some time now. Farmed salmon carry viruses that aren't present in the wild. These viruses are spread so easily that they can affect millions of wild salmon and reduce their populations. Farmed salmon also carry lice, which they can pass on to those in the wild. Also, many fish farms aren't constructed properly, thereby allowing farmed salmon to escape in the wild. In addition to carrying diseases, farm salmon often out-compete wild salmon for resources, further leading to a decline in their numbers. For these reasons, countries such as New Zealand and Australia have banned the sale and consumption of farm-raised salmon.
10 Foie Gras
Foie Gras is fatty duck or goose liver that's seen as an expensive delicacy. Some of the most pricey meals at high-end restaurants feature this food. They've been banned or restricted in California, Denmark, Italy, India, Finland, Norway, Poland, Israel, and Germany. If they're so expensive, why have all these countries opted out of the financial gains that come with Foie Gras production and consumption? The simple answer is that animals are treated very inhumanely to produce them. Feeding tubes are used to force-feed the birds so that the liver can be expanded up to 10 times its normal size. This isn't only sad but also frankly, savage.
9 Beluga Caviar
Caviar, champagne, and yachts always go together in movies or music videos as luxurious items that rich people wallow in. An ounce of Beluga caviar cost up to $200! It's been banned in the United States because it comes from an endangered species of fish. The Beluga sturgeon—mainly found in the Caspian and the Black Sea basins—are listed as critically endangered. Their population is rapidly decreasing. In fact, they're one of the most threatened groups of species. Their numbers are dwindling because of overfishing and human interference in their natural habitat. It’s surprising that there haven't been more countries that have joined the USA in banning the sale of their eggs.
They aren't healthy, but they're oh-so-good! Who decided to ban these colorful, chocolate-coated beauties? Sweden. No, they didn't ban them because they're unhealthy. It all came down to corporate competition. Apparently, the branding of M&M’s is too similar to another chocolate snack named “M.” It's been manufactured by Mondelez since 1957. The country decided to ban the M&M’s and protect their treat because they made it first. That seems fair. It seems that the bulk of the trouble has to do with the logo. The M&M’s logo is too close in appearance to the version from Sweden. So, in 2016, Mars, the maker of M&M’s, was told they could no longer sell their products in Sweden until they changed their logo. As that's unlikely to happen–the M&M’s logo is so notable–Sweden will be free of M&M’s for the indefinite future… maybe forever.
7 Sassafras oil
The distinctive taste of rootbeer is due to sassafras oil. However, it's been banned in the United States because it's a carcinogen. In excessive amounts, this substance can sauce kidney and liver damage. It's also a hallucinogen that has properties found in certain drugs. In the absence of sassafras oil, companies now use artificial flavors that taste like the trippy oil. Sassafras oil is harvested from the bark and root of the Sassafras tree, which has now become a money-making source for people who sell illegal drugs. Another interesting fact about Sassafras is that it was used to treat patients in psychotherapy.
6 Fruit Jelly Cups
Fruit Jelly cups are banned in Europe. In the early 2000s, jelly cups were a treat/snack enjoyed by children across the world. They became a concern because they were a choking hazard. These snacks came in small single size packets. Children–and adults, too, if we're being honest–would chuck the gelatin candy-flavored treat in their mouths. Health groups saw this as unsafe and quickly issued warnings to consumers, but it was eventually banned. Of course, the manufacturers of the jelly cups claimed there was no substantial proof that their product was a risk to the health of children. Nevertheless, the ban is still in effect.
Haggis is a Scottish dish made of minced sheep heart, liver, and lungs. They're seasoned with oatmeal, onions, suet, seasonings, and spices. They're cooked in the cleaned-out stomach of the sheep. The taste is described as crumbly sausage with a coarse, oaty texture. It's sometimes used to stuff poultry or fried for breakfast. It's illegal in the USA because the country prohibits the consumption of livestock lungs. This ban came into effect in 1971 and is still in effect all these years later. However, Scotland is apparently trying to negotiate a change to this law. What are your thoughts on haggis?
4 Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
BVO is found in soft drinks such as Mountain Dew and other citrus-flavored sodas. It affects the central nervous system when consumed in large quantities. It's banned for consumption in Europe and Japan. It's used in fruit-flavored drinks to prevent other ingredients from spreading out. Once consumed, it accumulates in the fatty tissue in the body. BVO is actually a flame retardant and shouldn't really be eaten by humans. In addition, once it gets out into the environment, it can have a negative impact on the development of birds and other animals.
3 Bromated Flour
Potassium bromate is a food additive used to bleach dough and improve its elasticity. It's used in bread production to create fluffy, soft, and unnaturally white bread. It was first patented for bread production in 1914 in the United States. The horrible thing about potassium bromate is that it's carcinogenic. Studies in Japan and elsewhere have found that it causes cancer in the thyroid and the kidney of mice. For these reasons, it's been banned in the EU, the UK, Canada, China Brazil, and South Korea. It's not necessary to use potassium bromate in food production, so why do so many other countries continue using it?
2 Shark Fin
Shark fin is primarily used in soup and fine dining. It's off-limits in California because the way it's harvested is inhumane, and shark populations are declining in numbers from overfishing. Many unscrupulous fishermen hack off the fins of sharks and then toss them back into the ocean. You don't have to be a scientist to know what happens to sharks tossed in water without their fins. They bleed out. Many parts of the world have banned shark-fin fishing because of this and also because certain sharks are on the endangered species list.
1 Raw Milk
If you intend to live a long and healthy life with a body free of parasites, avoid raw milk. It's illegal to sell raw milk across state lines in the USA. In Canada, you can go to prison if you're found guilty of providing raw milk. Australia has also banned the sale of raw milk for human consumption. Farmers can drink raw milk if they want to. However, they're not allowed to sell it. The concern is that raw milk transmits foodborne illnesses and contains harmful bacteria that haven't been removed by pasteurization. However, despite scientific researches and the damning information they convey regarding raw milk, many people still believe that raw milk is much more nutritious than pasteurized milk.