Just last month, a 50-year-old ban on the U.S. import of many Italian salumi was lifted. The ban was initially instituted to protect Americans from swine vesicular disease, but the once-prohibited cured meats were declared safe for consumption in May.
As foodies everywhere eagerly await the arrival of delicious Italian pancetta and salami, we decided to scope out what other foods remain restricted in the United States.
Your local market’s stinky cheeses got nothin’ on casu marzu, a Sardinian sheep-milk cheese that’s literally infested with live maggots. It’s actually considered unsafe to eat when the larvae have died, so get it while it’s fresh, people!
Casu marzu is made by leaving Pecorino cheeses outside and allowing cheese flies to lay eggs inside of it. Once the eggs hatch and the cheese becomes soft — even liquid in some parts — it’s time to chow down!
Why it’s banned: According to Travel & Leisure, the live maggots can actually burrow into your stomach lining and cause vomiting, diarrhea and serious cramps.
Named for its four main ingredients — caffeine, alcohol, taurine and guarana — Four Loko hit the U.S. market in 2005 and gradually became the drink of choice for many partiers who craved both the energy and buzz it offered.
Why it’s banned: The product earned a bad rap over the following years, with a group of U.S. state attorneys general accusing the company in 2009 of marketing the drinks to teens and expressing concern that the caffeine effects masked the feeling of intoxication. The Food and Drug Administration finally sent warning letters to four manufacturers of caffeinated alcohol beverages in 2010, insisting they change the formulations. Four Loko released a reformulated version of its drink — containing no caffeine, taurine or guarana — in December 2010.
“Raw milk” — which many proponents have dubbed “real milk” — is the unpasteurized, unhomogenized version of what you see at your local grocery. Currently, 28 states do not prohibit the sale of raw milk.
Why it’s banned: John Sheehan, director of the FDA’s Division of Dairy and Egg Safety, compared eating raw milk or raw milk products to “playing Russian roulette with your health.” The pasteurization process is credited with significantly lowering the number of milkborne disease outbreaks due to pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. On the other hand, advocates argue that raw milk contains enzymes and other substances that can benefit one’s health but can’t survive the pasteurization process.
Considered the national dish of Scotland, haggis is a pudding — not the sweet, after-dinner kind — made of the heart, liver and lungs of sheep. The meat is minced with oatmeal, onion and spices, encased in the sheep’s stomach lining — or, more likely today, a sausage casing — and cooked for about three hours.
Why it’s banned: Haggis has been prohibited in the United States for more than 40 years due to one ingredient: sheep’s lung. Despite Scotland’s attempts — the Scottish regional government even invited USDA officials to come taste the real thing — the U.S. has remained stubborn on the issue, most likely concerned about bacteria in this type of offal.
This pricey delicacy has divided food lovers across the country because of the way it’s produced. Foie gras is a fancy term for cooked duck or goose liver and is made by force-feeding the animals until their livers enlarge to about 600% their natural size.
Why it’s banned: Though not federally banned, the sale of foie gras was prohibited in California by a piece of legislation known as SB 1520 that went into effect on July 1, 2012. As you may have guessed, the reasoning behind this law was the inhumane process of producing the food. However, various media outlets have reported some California restaurants are continuing to serve the delicacy in protest.