Step away from the chewing gum, Red Bull, and samosas, you naughty traveler.
Some global destinations aren’t messing around when it comes to culinary red tape. They’ve boldly banned certain foods and drinks from crossing their borders, and for mostly good reason. You won’t believe what’s made the list—maybe even in your own country—and why it’s banished from the nations’ tables. Find out where to keep your mouth shut to avoid getting your hand slapped.
Wrigley’s, Trident, Hubba Bubba–forget about them. Since 2004, Singapore has enforced a strict no-chewing, no-importing gum policy across the country. Don’t even think about chewing gum on the down low since any sign of a foiled stick will land you a $700 fine.
This Bazooka madness started back in 1983 when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew reviewed a proposal to ban gum due to sticky issues across the country. The cost of scraping chewed gum off public areas, especially in the transit system, resulted in future Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong officially putting his foot down in 1992. From chewing to importing, he took it up a notch by signing specific terms into the 2003 Free Trade Agreement with President George W. Bush. If you’re chomping down for dental benefits or as a stop-smoking aid, you’re in luck. The government has made exceptions for prescribed alternatives and nicotine gum, but be sure to carry a note from your doctor.
Kinder Surprise Eggs
WHERE: United States
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has kept these European chocolate treats out of the hands of little tots after deeming them a choking hazard. Desperate fans have gone as far as to smuggle them across the border from Canada and Mexico, despite fines up to $2,500 per egg. Is the bootlegged candy worth it? Diehard Kinder collectors would say yes, especially when it comes to the limited-edition hand painted figurines. What’s not to love? You get a surprise toy (some assembly required) encased inside a layered milk chocolate shell. While banishment of these Easter favorites might sound like a crack up, the U.S. clearly prohibits the sale of any candy that has a toy inside—just ask Cracker Jack that recently replaced prizes with QR codes. If you’re longing for a Kinder Surprise but aren’t open to traveling or jail time, hold out until January 2018 when a child-safe version called Kinder Joy will be heading stateside.
Until 2008, you had to stick to coffee to get your caffeine fix in France. The country, along with Norway and Denmark, had banned Red Bull for 12 years due to the government’s health concern of taurine, an amino acid commonly found in energy drinks. Red Bull’s website calls bull crap on the claim, stating that our bodies contain 70 times more taurine than one 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull. Eventually they called a truce when European regulations reported no serious health risks from the punchy beverage. Today, you might find a can of the super powered drink in French stores, but expect it to come with warning labels from the gendarme watchdogs.
WHERE: United States
From China and Russia to Mexico and Italy, over a dozen countries around the world consume horsemeat just like you would a burger and fries. While parts of Europe and Japan consider horsemeat a delicacy, the United States has branded it taboo. Connoisseurs might argue it matches salmon in omega-3’s and has twice the iron of a juicy steak. But in 2006, the U.S. House passed the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act which prohibits the selling and slaughter of horses for human consumption.
Mac & Cheese
Let’s start with the fact that cheese should never be in a powder form. Since we can’t change that, it’s worth applauding Norway for stonewalling Yellow #5 food coloring—the sunny bright dye found in Macaroni & Cheese. Despite reports of the dye causing hypersensitivity in children, the rest of Europe let it slide by printing a disclaimer on the box. But Norway and eventually Austria weren’t willing to budge. For over two decades, Norway banned all artificial dyes including Blue #1 and Blue #2—that same Smurf blue that adds a pop of color to those M&Ms, Trix cereal, and blueberry Nutri-Grain bars. In 2016, Kraft Heinz removed artificial preservatives, dyes, and flavors from its Mac & Cheese recipe and introduced paprika, annatto, and turmeric to keep the yellow coloring and flavor. While Norway might have hugged it out with Mac & Cheese, they are still saying “no” to artificial dyes.
Close your eyes and imagine sinking your teeth into those savory, triangular fried pockets filled with lentils, cheese, or minced lamb. If you’re in Somalia, that’s really all you can do since al-Shabaab militant leaders banned the crispy snacks for their three-edged resemblance to the Christian Trinity. In 2011, Islamist fighters proclaimed the samosa ban from loudspeakers in Somalia towns near the capital of Mogadishu. While other shapes of samosas could be considered, at that stage you might consider a taquito.
WHERE: United States
Get that spoon ready for some juicy haggis, a savory pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs. This Scottish favorite is kneaded with a blend of oatmeal and spices and encased in sheep’s intestines. Since 1971, the USDA has banned the import of sheep lungs to be used as human food. Fair enough. The only problem is for devout haggis fans who are deprived of the delicacy since sheep lung is a crucial part of the recipe. While haggis still can’t be imported into the U.S., you can find a handful of Scottish restaurants serving heaping portions of the dish—minus the sheep lungs and casings. In 2016, the U.S. and Scottish government were in talks of lifting the ban, but for now, we’re all feeling a little sheepish about the whole thing.
Fugu (Japanese Puffer Fish)
WHERE: United States
With so many fish in the sea, we still want the one we can’t have. Oh the poor, funky looking puffer fish just can’t catch a break, with its poisonous glands that can kill a person within minutes of consumption. This, of course, is why it’s illegal to sell or serve the dangerous species in the U.S. without a license, and why it’s so sought after in Japan. Despite freezing, frying, or baking the puffer, its toxins will leave you tingling, dizzy, and eventually paralyzed. The FDA permits one lucky New York facility to import a limited supply of puffer fish, all of which have been processed by certified Japanese chefs.
WHERE: New Zealand, Australia, and Russia
Swim free little guys, swim free, at least in New Zealand, Australia, and Russia. These three countries won’t have their salmon scraping fins in tanks for the sake of human consumption. They’ve put a ban on farm-raised salmon that are limited in space and fed a grain diet that can impact the taste, color, and omega-3 content (50 percent less than wild salmon). Since farmed-raised salmon lack that natural shade of pink, they are given a mixture of chemicals to bring a little color to their skin.
Casu Marzu Cheese
WHERE: The European Union
That’s not your tongue out of control in your mouth. Nope, it’s a maggot—hundreds of them in fact, squirming around as you bite into casu marzu cheese. A Sardinian delicacy, this pungent relative of pecorino has been passed down from generations despite being outlawed around the world. The process begins with fly larvae wiggling its little thorax into the cheese. Over time, the cheese softens from increased fermentation. Grab your crackers and dig in. Maggots can be consumed or scraped away, depending on your preference. If consumed, they allegedly must be eaten alive. Apparently the EU banned the cheese because dead maggots have been known to cause health risks.
WHERE: Argentina, India, and parts of the United States and Europe
This buttery mousse made from duck or goose liver has been shunned by nations due to the stress it causes on the fattened birds. Force-fed by tubes or funnels, the foul have trouble breathing and suffer limited blood flow once their livers are expanded up to 10 times the normal size. India banned foie gras in 2014, followed by other corners of the world including U.S. cities, San Diego and Chicago. Unlike parts of Europe that have said fooey to foie gras, France is considered the land of liver with 75 percent of production coming from within their borders.