15 Times Johnny Law and Uncle Sam Got Their Dirty Paws on Your Favorite Foods
Nobody wants anyone else’s hands in their food. What a horrific thought. And yet, inevitably, almost everything we eat is affected in some ways by the legislature of wherever we live. Yep, even the most basic sandwich has been fingered by the long arm of Johnny Law.
Generally one has to assume that there are good intentions behind laws surrounding food. A healthy nation pays more tax, after all — it’s in no government’s interest for everyone to be barfing all the time from eating nasty shit and unable to earn. But there are also cultural, political and financial factors at play.
Everything from outright bans to labeling requirements to different levels of taxation can affect what we end up putting in our bodies, often without us knowing. Deep-cut ingredients far down the panel on the side of a cereal box are frequently the subjects of argument and debate — should people be allowed to ingest this obscure, unusually-named chemical or this other one? Some of these rows pass without incident, and sometimes it ends up feeling goddamned un-American — there’s nothing in the Constitution saying you can’t eat a big mess of absolute crap if you want to.
Keep Your Choking Hazards to Yourself, Fritz!
America loves chocolate, America loves plastic, but Kinder eggs — chocolate ovoids with a plastic toy inside — fall foul of the FDA. Hundreds of thousands have been seized by U.S. Customs over the years from Europeans toting colorful windpipe-blockers.
That Fish Nearly Killed Homer Simpson — Shut It Down!
While puffer fish — fugu — is a delicacy in Japan, it takes such precise preparation due to the presence of tetrodotoxin that only a handful of U.S. restaurants are permitted to handle it. If their skilled hands are busy? You die!
Keep Trying to Import Haggis and You’ll Get Yourself Kilt!
Importing haggis into the U.S. has been illegal since a 1972 outbreak of scrapie — a gross contagious illness in sheep that certainly isn’t helped by flinging their hearts, lungs and livers around like cabers.
Jamaican An Illegal Move Bringing Ackee In!
The national fruit of Jamaica, the ackee, contains high amounts of hypoglycin-A when unripe. Ingesting too much of it can lead to “Jamaican vomiting sickness,” which led Uncle Sam to ban the import of fresh, un-canned ackee.
Eat Maggots in Your Own Country, Mario!
Casu marzu, the pecorino cheese famous for housing live maggots, is an expensive, sought-after product in Sardinia. Try importing it to the U.S., though, and it’ll be confiscated by grossed-out customs officers who’ll look at you like you’re a savage.
Treat Your Birds Better, Pierre!
Ortolan is a controversial French delicacy, involving thumb-sized songbirds that are fattened up (a process that often involves blinding them) then drowned in booze. It was outlawed in France, and is also illegal in the States. Good, you French bastards.
Roe, Roe, Roe Your Beluga Eggs Back into the Ocean!
Once banned in America for sustainability reasons, beluga caviar can now be purchased above-board from one place, Bascome in Florida. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit for one sturgeon farm to harvest it due to their repopulation efforts.
Brightly-Colored Poop? What Are You, a Commie?
The FDA banned several colors of food dye in the 1970s and 1980s, following incidents where colorful cereals led kids to do terrifying-looking shits. Smurfberry Crunch made kids shit blue. That’s just not right.
Tonka Tonka Beanin’ Love!
Tonka beans — no relation to the trucks — are famed for their delicious vanilla-like flavor. A little goes a long way, which is good as a lot would kill you due to high levels of the toxin coumarin, hence a ban.
Coke, Corn and Cash!
In the 1980s, corn was subsidized by the government and overproduced. This meant companies that used a lot of sugar were better off financially using high-fructose corn syrup. In short, Coke sucks now because of Uncle Sam.
Putting the ‘No’ into ‘Carcinogen’!
In 2018, the law came in and swiped seven popular additives from American diets, for the simple reason that they “cause cancer.” Benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, pyridine and styrene are all off the table now.
Open (to Misinterpretation) Sesame!
A well-intentioned move to protect food-allergy sufferers had unintended consequences. When the FDA added sesame to their list of allergens, several food manufacturers concluded cross-contamination was inevitable, so they went, “Fuck it, let’s just put sesame in there.”
Chex Appeal (to Constitutional Law)!
In 2023, General Mills got very antsy in their pantsy when the government tightened regulations on what foods could claim to be “healthy”. The manufacturer claimed it violates the First Amendment if you can't claim Chex is healthy. Does it?
Moo, Pigs, Get Out the Way!
The Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 requires livestock to be sedated before they’re killed in order to reduce unnecessary suffering. However, the only animals named are cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep and swine — it’s legal to treat chickens like absolute shit.
The government is currently deciding whether to ban brominated vegetable oils, once a key ingredient in drinks including Mountain Dew and Gatorade, and still used by some brand soda brands. It’s been found to cause thyroid and testicle issues. Oof.