Banned Food: Illegal Plants

Here are six frustratingly banned plant-based foods.


Ch-ch-ch-chia is not doubt recognisable to anyone reading from the US. Seeds from the Central American plant are eaten as a snack in the south west, and across the country they were a regular kitchen counter accessory, as Chia Pets, in the 80s and 90s. But in Europe, Chia is illegal. In 2009 the EU approved (link – PDF) the use of Chia as an ingredient for bread only, and as long as it doesn’t exceed 5% of the total ingredients. When buying the seeds, importers use stickers, like cigarette packet warnings, to remind customers that it is for bread use only, in case anyone gets the idea of sprinkling it over breakfast porridge! Like most banned plants, there is no good reason for it to be against the law. Although it does keep Monsanto’s monster corn at bay, EU legislation against “novel” food items can keep delicious natural non-(European) traditional foods away from the public.

Raw almonds

I had never seen these before. I found them in a local market and was told they were almonds. Turns out the “raw” almonds you buy in shops are actually pasteurised. Following a couple e-coli breakouts in 2007, Canada and the US banned raw almonds, and now almonds need to be subjected to fumigants or high-temperature heat before they hit the market. This is what almonds look like.

Salvia divinorum or just “Salvia” isn’t illegal yet, but they are working on it. Smoking the plant gets you mildly high. In the US, Brett’s Law wants to prohibit it, and in the UK, the right wing media are working to demonise it.


Derived from herb Artemisia absinthium, I stock up on absinthe whenever I visit Europe. The high alcohol makes it good, but it is the chemical thujone what makes it fun. Absinthe was banned in the UK for 70 years, but joining the EU opened the door again. In the EU, maximum thujone levels in the drink can be 35 mg/kg. Compared to 10 mg/kg in the US and as low as 5 mg/kg in Canada, depending on the province, clearly the absinthe on the American side of the Atlantic isn’t as enjoyable.

There’s enough clichéd rants about this on the web. All I will say is that if you live in the UK, please visit:

Magic mushrooms were banned in the UK back in 2005. They are illegal elsewhere in the world too. It is another excuse to move to the countryside. BBC: “Exceptions will be made for people who unknowingly pick the mushrooms in the wild or find them growing in their garden, and critics have argued the act will be difficult to police.”


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