Foods that are Illegal to bring into the United States

Do you know the foods that are illegal to bring into the United States? If you are just curious, or you travel outside the country and need to know what foods are illegal to bring back into the United States when traveling, we have your list.

The list may also be a great reference for you when traveling at a restaurant and you don’t recognize a particular menu item. Haggis for instance, is very popular in Scotland. Check out what it is before you decide to order that favorite Scottish dish.

Due to plant pests and animal diseases, there are many prohibited or restricted items, including some meats, fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, an animal or plant materials.

Traveling into the U.S. with prohibited items can result in confiscation of the item and perhaps a civil penalty if the item is not declared. The U.S.D.A. and Dept. of Homeland Security work together watching for restricted items.


Meat, poultry and the products from like eggs, milk, dried soup mix, bouillon are generally prohibited or restricted. The reason being is types of animal diseases that occur in the country the food is coming from may be present.

Dried, cured, fresh frozen or chilled and fully cooked meats and poultry is generally prohibited from most countries. Cheese, fruit and vegetables must be presented for inspection regardless of its admissibility status for inspection. Consult the USDA and Dept of Homeland Security website for exact banned items.

Specific banned items are as follows (keep in mind this is not the entire list):


Kinder surprise chocolate eggs are banned only because of the U.S federal ban on NON-edible items placed within the candy. The reason being, the child may choke on the toy inside the egg. These eggs are a European treat for kids similar to the discontinued Nestle’s Wonder Ball.


Haggis contains sheep lung. The USDA has a ban on lung being used in food products.


Your gag reflex may need a check after we describe this. Casu Marzu is a rotten Italian Pecorino Romano cheese filled with maggots. The maggots lay eggs in it while it rots. Its legality is questioned in Italy as well, where it comes from.


A Jamaican fruit that can be considered delicious or deadly. The deadly part fluctuates depending upon its ripening. If not ripened correctly, it creates high levels of Hypoglycemic A and B which can be fatal when swallowed. Be safe and eat a mango.

FOIE GRAS (banned in CA and Chicago)

Foie gras isn’t banned everywhere in the U.S. Where it is banned is due to the unethical way it is produced. Foie gras is a fatty goose or duck liver. Geese and ducks are force fed with tubes to enlarge the liver of the bird for a more succulent dish. The process dates back to 2500 BC where the ancient Egyptians practiced the process.

UNPASTEURIZED MILK (banned in 17 States)

Unpasteurized milk poses a problem because microbes are still present in the raw milk that can be dangerous or fatal for human consumption.


Shark fins are collected inhumanely by cutting off the fin of the live shark, leaving it to flounder without its fin until death. The fin is used as a Chinese delicacy and has been banned in the United States for many years now. Over fishing was the initial idea to ban the fins.


Some countries like Mexico, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, China and more see no problem with eating horse meat. In some cultures it is a delicacy. While the U.S. doesn’t officially prohibit it, there is a de facto ban due to the prohibition of spending any tax dollars on the inspection of the horse meat or slaughterhouses.


Beluga caviar consists of the eggs of the beluga sturgeon. The beluga sturgeon comes primarily from the Caspian Sea basin. The caviar is banned in the U.S. as a protective measure against overfishing.


Not quite a cake as we in the U.S. would think, this Taiwanese cake is pork blood and rice blended together. For sanitary reasons, the USDA bans it.


Sassafras sounds so plain and harmless from the old west days. Aside from the cancer-causing properties, the skikimol and the safrole in the sassafras oil are used to produce one of the psychoactive party drugs, molly or ecstasy.


Absinthe is known to contain a hallucinogenic chemical, thujone, which is reason for the ban. The ban changed in 2007 to exclude any import that the word absinthe stands alone on the label and the label or solution cannot depict hallucinogenic effects.


These plums, which originate in Lorraine, France, are a protected-origin fruit. The USFDA has a trade agreement with France to protect the French origin market of these plums.


Redfish, due to overfishing are banned for fishing and sale for profit in all states except Mississippi. You may fish and catch redfish for personal use only everywhere else.


Fugu, the Japanese delicacy, which the chef must be legally trained and licensed to prepare, is banned in the U.S. The Puffer Fish (Fugu), when prepared improperly, could cause asphyxiation.


Sea turtles were overfished almost into extinction early last century. They are endangered and cannot be legally imported for shells, foods or otherwise.


Overfishing the beautiful shelled Queen Conch caused a threat to the overall population. Importing as been banned in the U.S. since 2003.


Some people feel so guilty eating this little bird that they cover their heads with a napkin. It is a delicate songbird that is illegal to bring into the U.S. Other countries have made it illegal to sell or poach die to a 30 percent dip in population early in this century.

Banned specifically by state are a few more items:

Margarine in public institutions – Banned in Wisconsin

Peanut Butter – Banned in one Tennessee School District

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos – Banned in some schools in Massachusetts, New York and New Mexico

Drinking Human Blood – Louisiana

Watermelon in Parks – Banned in Beech Grove, Indiana

Eating fried chicken with anything but your fingers – Banned in Gainesville, Georgia

“Junk” Food – Banned in Schools in Massachusetts, New York and California

Lazy Cakes – Snack cakes that contain melatonin, which induces sleep. Banned in the state of Arkansas in 2011. The reason is they pose a potential danger of children getting ahold of them.

This isn’t the definitive list for the U.S. You will be best served visiting the USDA website for any laws that may have come in since this article was written.