8 Foods Banned In America

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In addition to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s litany of food bans, America is sated with food laws, despite some not being enforced.

Courtesy of Bon Appétit’s Sam Dean, here are 8 banned food items from the national level down to the state and town level.

8) Foie Gras

Banned in Chicago from 2006 to 2008, and currently banned in California. Despite the ban, chefs are still actively campaigning against a foie gras ban. A “Save Foie Gras” petition was started with support from chefs such as Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern.

7) Margarine

In Wisconsin, which just happens to produce a lot of dairy, it’s illegal to serve anything but real butter to anyone in a public institution, be that a prison, school, or hospital. Violations will run you “not less than $100 nor more than $500,” or up to three months in jail.

Full Text of the Law

(5) The serving of oleomargarine or margarine to students, patients or inmates of any state institutions as a substitute for table butter is prohibited, except that such substitution may be ordered by the institution superintendent when necessary for the health of a specific patient or inmate, if directed by the physician in charge of the patient or inmate.


(6) Any person who violates any provision of this section may be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500 or imprisoned not more than 3 months or both; and for each subsequent offense may be fined not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or imprisoned in the county jail not less than 6 months nor more than one year.

6) Mirabelle Plums

These tiny, delicious plums are only grown in Lorraine, France, and, thanks to import laws, are impossible to get in the U.S. It’s not because legislators are anti-plum, but they’re banned nonetheless.

5) Bottled Water

Starting on January 1, 2013, the charming suburban town of Concord, MA, has banned the sale of “non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less.”

Full Text of the Law

The bottled water bylaw passed at this year’s Town Meeting bans the sale of non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less in Concord on or after Jan. 1, 2013. It provides for an exemption in the case of emergencies, outlines an enforcement process and also allows for a process to suspend the bylaw if necessary.

4) Horse Meat

It isn’t illegal to eat horse meat in the US, but it is illegal to produce it with the intent of selling it for human consumption; however, that might change since the USDA has approved a new horse slaughter plant in New Mexico that would be allowed to make edible meat.

As National Geographic’s Catherine Zuckerman points out, in the U.S. having pig, chicken, and cow as part of your diet is one thing, but “there’s just something wrong about eating horse.”

“Think of the Kentucky Derby, and the many movies and books dedicated to the equine kind,” adds Catherine. “It’s probably safe to say that most Americans are uncomfortable with the thought of sitting down to a plate of Black Beauty or Seabiscuit.”

3) Prank Pizza

Ordering a pizza to be delivered to your unsuspecting friend (or enemy) can get you fined up to $500 or six months in jail in the great state of Louisiana. And just in case you’re getting any ideas, the same applies to any “goods or services,” so that party-clown-delivering-Chinese-food idea is a no-go.

2) Raw Milk

The fight over the national raw milk ban has gone on for years. There have even been police raids on raw milk purveyors. In 2010, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, an organization that defends the rights and freedoms of family farms and consumers, challenged the FDA’s ruling on behalf of raw milk consumers in half a dozen states. Their suit maintains that the FDA’s actions are unconstitutional.

In France, raw milk is abundant, and you can even get it from a vending machine.

1) Sexy Hot Dog Vendors

In Broward County, Florida, home to Fort Lauderdale and a big chunk of the Everglades, “persons vending from mobile food units who are inappropriately attired” can be fined for “causing a hazard or impediment to traffic.”

And judging by their definition of “inappropriate attire,” the zoning board has run into this problem before:

“Inappropriate attire shall include clothing which shows any portion of the anal cleft, cleavage or buttocks of males or females such as G-strings, T-back bathing suits, thong bikinis or any other clothing or covering that does not completely and opaquely cover the anal cleft, cleavage or buttocks of males and females. Inappropriate attire shall also include clothing which shows the portion of the human female breast directly or laterally below a point immediately above the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering. This definition shall include the entire lower portion of the human female breast, including the areola and nipple, but shall not include any portion of the cleavage of the human female breast exhibited by a dress, blouse, shirt, leotard, bathing suit or other clothing, provided the areola is not exposed.”

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper


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