Banned in the United States

Blackcurrants, Kinder Surprises, and haggis have all been illegal in the United States at some point.

Paolo Neo / Public domain

Blackcurrant-flavoured drinks are common in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but mostly unheard of in the United States. (American readers, you are missing out. Blackcurrant is delicious, and high in Vitamin C as well.) Blackcurrant bushes were grown in the States as far back as 1629, but in 1911 professional cultivation of the plant was banned. Apparently it is a carrier of a fungus called white pine blister rust, and the American lumber industry successfully lobbied to have blackcurrant declared illegal to protect their pine forests. The fungus doesn’t actually cross over to infect pine trees unless conditions are just right, but when have the facts ever gotten in the way of a good banning? The nationwide ban was lifted in 1966, and many individual state bans have since also been removed, but blackcurrants have never really returned to the country in a big way.

Kinder Surprises, the chocolate egg with a toy inside, have always been illegal in the United States. A 1938 law prevents the import or creation of children’s snacks that contain inedible components inside them – it’s considered a choking hazard. Despite the fact that the Kinder Surprise puts the toy within a large plastic egg within the chocolate egg. And the fact that plenty of foods contain inedible components: lollipop sticks, for example.

Haggis is a surprising one. Since 1971 it has been illegal to import Scottish haggis into the United States, because it is illegal to import any food into the States that contains sheep lungs – and haggis is something like one seventh sheep lung. (Yum.) The concern, apparently, is that bits of stomach acid may get into the lungs when the sheep is killed. This apparently has something to do with American concerns about scrapie, which I mentioned in a post about animal diseases with funny names a while back. But there’s no evidence that haggis is a vector for this disease, or that it can even be transmitted to humans. The ban, nevertheless, remains.

I propose a Banned in the States dinner party, which consists entirely of these three foods. It, uh, would not be great.

[Thanks to Gareth E. for telling me about the blackcurrant ban.]

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