Ten foods that have been banned

Earlier this year, foie gras was banned in California. However, it’s not the only food to have fallen foul of the law.

Shark fin

 Chef serving up shark fin soup, Bangkok. © RexSharks may not be the cutest of creatures but this is one ban that certainly makes sense. Although actual consumption of the fins isn't illegal, California recently passed a law banning the possession, sale or trade of shark fins and the EU, the U.S, Canada, Brazil and South Africa all have shark finning laws too. 

"Shark finning is an extremely cruel practice," says Professor Duncan, an animal welfare expert based at the department of Animal and Poultry Science at Ontario's University of Guelph.

"When caught, their fins are cut off, and they’re thrown back into the sea alive. It's all the more reprehensible because shark fins don't have any special properties – they’re just pieces of cartilage."

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Tomato ketchup


When HJ Heinz created his first batch of ketchup in 1876 by boiling up tomatoes and adding vinegar and sugar, we're pretty sure he'd never have imagined that the resulting product would end up being banned in France.

Admittedly, the ban only applies to schools, and children will still be allowed their ketchup fix once a week, but only with French fries. 

The ban was introduced to help preserve traditional French cuisine. "We have to ensure that children become familiar with French recipes so that they can hand them down to the following generations," declared Christophe Hebert, chairman of the National Association of Directors of Collective Restaurants.

Japanese puffer fishFugu a type of puffer fish at a Japanese restaurant. © Rex

"The Japanese puffer fish is one of the most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine," says Professor Charles Brennan, a professor in food chemistry and nutrition at New Zealand's Lincoln University.

"Its notoriety comes from the poison tetrodotocin which is found in its liver, ovaries and skin."

Both the sale and consumption of Japanese puffer fish, or Fugu, is banned in the EU, and the catching and selling of puffer fish was banned in Vietnam between 2002 and 2010 after a spate of fatal poisonings.

Elsewhere, only licensed restaurants can serve the dish, and chefs must undertake a two or three year apprenticeship. It's not an easy skill to master either - the apprenticeships only have a 35 per cent success rate.

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Horse meat

The consumption of horse meat was first banned in 732 when a then Europe-wide papal ban was introduced, while Iceland also introduced a separate ban in the year 1000. 

In more recent years, the slaughter of horses for meat was banned in the US for five years but Obama lifted this ban in November 2011.

To this day the Italians and French have a particular fondness for horse meat. In order to meet the high demand in Italy, around 20,000 horses are imported from Eastern Europe every year, while France's love affair with horse meat goes back at least 100 years - records show that in 1911, 62,000 horses were slaughtered for their meat.

Raw milk            

Yes, you read that correctly. Milk, the stuff that we pour over our cereal and add to our morning caffeine fix is banned in several places, including 22 American states and the whole of Canada. However, the ban only applies to the unpasteurised variety, and was introduced to protect consumers from bacteria found in raw milk.

Critics argue that raw milk contains beneficial enzymes which are destroyed by the pasteurisation process, while also pointing out that higher standards relating to farm sanitation mean that it's high time this law was revoked.

"Pasteurisation does effectively control the majority of pathogens if used properly," says Professor Brennan. "However it also affects the beneficial microbes within milk. Indeed, recent research suggests some health benefits in drinking raw milk over pasteurised milk.”

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Pecorino cheese in an Italian market © RexMaggot cheese

You might want to skip this next item if you’re eating. Casu Marzu, meaning rotting cheese in Sardinian, is a white runny cheese made by injecting Pecorino Sardo cheese with cheese-eating larvae which then hatch into worms – half-inch-long worms at that.

Tradition dictates that the cheese should be eaten with the worms still inside. However the current EU ban on the cheese was introduced because this particular larvae, Piophila Casei, is resistant to stomach acid and can cause gastric lesions. Nevertheless, cheese aficionados have evaded the ban by registering the cheese as a traditional food, which means it's exempt from EU rulings.

Ortolan

In France it's illegal to hunt or sell this tiny French songbird: restaurant owners face a hefty fine if caught serving them, although they are still often sold illegally to restaurants for around £150 a piece.

Those who eat the birds traditionally place a napkin over their head, partly because the process of eating ortolan is somewhat messy (the birds are consumed whole - beak, bones and all) and partly because tradition dictates that those who consume Ortolan must “hide their greed from God”.

Stevia plants © RexStevia

Whoever came up with the expression "eat your greens" had obviously never heard of Stevia. Stevia is a herb related to the sunflower family and is grown for its leaves, which can be used as a sweetener.

However, in 1985 a study linked the herb to fertility (and other health) problems, resulting in Stevia being banned.

However, the ban is controversial, with many people suspecting the real reason behind it was to stop the herb becoming a viable low-cost alternative to aspartame.

Whatever the reason, in America Stevia was banned by the Food and Drug administration but in 1994, the ban was changed to allow it to be used as a dietary supplement but not a food additive. 

In 2005, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India introduced a Stevia ban, while in the UK Stevia was banned until November 2011 when the European Commission ruled that it could be used as a sweetener.

Blackened redfish

In the early 1980s, New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme came up with a recipe for blackened redfish which proved so popular that the US Commerce Department was forced to step in and protect redfish stock by closing down fisheries and introducing an emergency temporary ban making it illegal to keep or catch redfish.

Today there are still strict regulations in place regarding the size of redfish that can be caught – but Prudhomme’s recipe remains one of Louisiana’s most popular dishes.

Haggis

Haggis is banned in the US due to a law against the use of sheep’s lungs in food products. The ban has been a source of contention between the Scottish Rural Affairs Department and the US Department of Agriculture for over 22 years.

Despite rumours in January 2010 that the ban was about to be lifted, haggis remains illegal in the USA, although Americans can satisfy their cravings with what’s known as American haggis, which lacks the one authentic ingredient – sheep’s lungs. But on the plus side, it probably comes with a double helping of fries.
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