Illegal food: step away from the cheese, ma’am

The US has banned mimolette, a cheese from Lille made with mites. So what other foods are forbidden?

Mimolette was last newsworthy in 2005. It had a surge of popularity in Japan after a minister denounced it as 'hard and dry'. Photograph: Issei Kato/REUTERS

Mimolette was last newsworthy in 2005. It had a surge of popularity in Japan after a minister denounced it as ‘hard and dry’. Photograph: Issei Kato/REUTERS

Anna Brones, Monday 15 April 2013, Via

While French cheese may still be the Holy Grail for many food lovers, getting hold of it everywhere in the world can be tricky, thanks to global food regulations.

Last week, the United States put a blockade on mimolette, the brightly colored orange cheese that traditionally hails from Lille. To refine the flavour of the cheese, mites are deliberately introduced, a practice that up until now has not caused a problem. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has claimed, however, that the tiny organisms could cause allergic reactions and halted the sale of Mimolette , outraging French producers and importers of the cheese in the US.

In fact, in the US the FDA has a strict ban on the import of unpasteurised, raw-milk cheese, less than 60 days old. Australia and New Zealand have similar restrictions, and in Scotland, raw milk itself is banned outright, offending cheese lovers and producers alike. Traditional foods and delicacies aren’t just part of local food cultures, often – and especially in the modern era when words such as “artisan” carry a lot of culinary weight – they are a way into the global market for small-scale producers.

Concern over trade barriers is so strong, that farm products are a central part of the discussions around creating a trade agreement between the US and the European Union. Whether that will support small-scale, traditional producers or whether it will force them to conform to more global regulations remains to be seen.

When it comes to food bans, French cheese isn’t the only culprit. Producers of local specialties often miss out due to import regulations. Here are a few delicacies from around the world that are either banned or have been, and why.


Banned in Australia and New Zealand until 2005, the blue cheese from the south of France hasn’t always had an easy time outside of its home country. In its final days, the Bush Administration placed a 300% duty on the cheese, essentially keeping it out of the American market.

Foie gras

Banned in California since 2012, partly due to campaigns from activists and lobbyists, chefs and producers alike have protested against the state’s move to keep the goose liver delicacy from being served, but to no avail. While the import and sale of foie gras is legal in Europe, force-feeding animals for non-medical purposes is banned in a handful of European countries, including the United Kingdom and Norway, limiting production to Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain and France.

Casu marzu

Because of food and hygiene regulations, this traditional Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese containing live insect larvae was banned until recently by the European Union. But here’s where food culture reigns: the ban was lifted on the grounds that Casu marzu is a traditional food made using traditional methods.


The traditional Scottish staple makes its way to plenty of plates in the UK, but in America it has been banned since 1971 because of the use of sheep’s lung. Since the US has firm Scottish roots, there is, however, a small market for American businesses making lung-free haggis for the domestic market.


The savoury spread has made its way around the world thanks to British expatriates, but you might have a hard time finding Marmite in Denmark. Danish law restricts the marketing of food products fortified with added vitamins. Such foods cannot be marketed in Denmark without approval from the Danish authorities. It’s still allowed under EU law, but you’ll find it best to buy your Marmite elsewhere.


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