A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

12 Foods You Never Knew Were Illegal in the U.S.

Updated: May 23, 2023

We wouldn’t eat some of these even if they were legal, to be honest.

1 / 12
Tei Sinthip/Shutterstock

Unpasteurized milk

Unpasteurized milk, also known as raw milk, hasn’t been pasteurized to kill bacteria, and it’s 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness than pasteurized dairy products, according to the FDA’s website. The sale of unpasteurized milk is banned in 21 states for that safety concern, and other states only allow sales of small quantities directly from farms.

2 / 12

Shark fins

Well, sort of. It may seem like an odd thing to eat, but putting shark fins in soup is a delicacy in China. And while eating shark meat is legal in the U.S., not all means of getting that meat are. The primary means of getting shark fins is through finning, in which fishermen catch sharks, remove their fins, and then return them back to the water. This practice is now banned in the 11 states that once made up the majority of the shark fin market in America. (Here’s a shocking fact–puppy mills are still allowed in the U.S.)

3 / 12
Radu Bercan/Shutterstock

Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs

Those who have traveled in Europe know how popular Kinder chocolate is, but the main reason it hasn’t gained traction in the U.S. is because not all of Kinder’s products are legal here. Specifically, the hollow Kinder Surprise eggs are prohibited in the states because they contain non-edible items inside them. Here’s the good news: A different version of Kinder eggs, called Kinder Joy, should become available in the U.S. sometime in 2018. These also contain a surprise toy, but their packaging seals both halves of the hollow egg to keep the toy away from the rest of the candy, making them fully compliant with FDA regulations.

4 / 12
Lev Paraskevopoulos/Shutterstock


Eating this extremely small European bird is illegal in the U.S. and the E.U., and it’s even illegal to sell in France, all because of its decreasing population. Poaching reportedly caused a 30 percent dip in its population between 1997 and 2007. And don’t even think about trying to smuggle it into the U.S.—that’s also illegal. Learn about the 50 odd things that are banned in the U.S.

5 / 12
Pei Chung Davy/Shutterstock

Sea turtles

Sea turtles are banned for the same reason as ortolans: They are endangered. It’s illegal to import them as food or for any other purpose.

6 / 12
Kathy Clark/Shutterstock

Sassafrass oil

Once used in root beer, the FDA banned this oil in 1960 over concerns that one of its main constituents, safrole, could cause cancer. What’s more, safrole can also be used to make psychoactive party drugs. Here’s the strangest law in each of the 50 states.

7 / 12
ricky loops/Shutterstock


This unusual fruit is native to West Africa and is also the national fruit of Jamaica, but it’s illegal to import it into the U.S. If it’s not ripened correctly, its toxins could release a surplus of glucose and dangerously drop the consumer’s blood sugar, which could end up being fatal.

8 / 12

Horse meat

We personally can’t understand why anyone would want to eat these majestic creatures, but horse meat is a fairly popular dish in other parts of the world. U.S. slaughterhouses once supplied horse meat to these countries, but now importing the meat and utilizing horse slaughterhouses are both illegal. These are the 25 international laws you’d never think were real.

9 / 12

Beluga caviar

This caviar comes from the wild Beluga sturgeon, but like some other foods on this list, it became so popular that it endangered the sturgeon population. Importing the caviar has been banned since 2005.

10 / 12


A type of Japanese puffer fish, fugu is so difficult to cook that you actually need a license and intense training to do so. If not made properly, it could release a deadly amount of tetrodotoxin that could cause paralysis and asphyxiation.

11 / 12
Judy M Darby/shutterstock


According to Delish, New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme started a redfish frenzy when he revealed his recipe for blackened redfish. It became so popular that the species became endangered. Now it’s illegal to sell redfish in every state except Mississippi.

12 / 12


You’ll have to travel across the Atlantic to try this savory pudding native to Scotland. It’s made with sheep lung, and the USDA has banned foods containing lungs since 1971. Next, here’s how to protect yourself from 13 everyday things that could get you sued.