10 of the Strictest Food and Drink Laws From Around the World

  • 01 of 11

    Strict Laws Govern These 10 Products

    Sunrise on the vineyards, Ville Dommange, Champagne, France
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    Some food and drinks are so tied to a region that they simply aren’t as good if they're made anywhere else. In order to protect consumers from being duped into buying lesser versions (and to build up their national products), many countries have passed laws establishing particular methods of making these delicacies, from beer in Germany to mozzarella in Italy. Here's what you need to know before enjoying some of the world's most famous food products. Hint: if the tomatoes on your pizza weren't grown in the volcanic soils of Mount Vesuvius, you're doing it wrong. 

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  • 02 of 11

    Beer, Germany

    Sausage with preztel on plate and beer mug, sweet mustard, knife and napkin
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    2016 marked the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, Germany’s beer purity law. Proclaimed by William IV, the Duke of Bavaria, the measure codified the only ingredients allowed for brewing beer: barley, hops, water, and later, yeast. The law was designed to protect the country’s health, and had the benefit of helping Germany earn its reputation as the land of superior brews. The downside is that current drinkers now think the purity law has stunted Germany’s craft brewing scene and stifled creativity. Brewers that ignore the law by adding in fruits or spices are now leaving the word “beer” off the label.

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  • 03 of 11

    Tequila, Mexico

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    While lots of different types of mezcals can be made from agave plants, in order to be called Tequila, the spirit must be at least 51 percent made from Weber Blue Agave plant, explains Antonio Rodriquez, the production manager of Patrón Spirits Company. These agave plants take six to eight years to mature, and can grow as tall as 12 feet before they're harvested for cooking and distillation. A Consejo Regulador del Tequila (Tequila Regulatory Council) has been created to protect tequila standards worldwide, and to be true tequila, the drink can only be produced within five designated regions in Mexico — including the state of Jalisco, where the red volcanic soil is particularly good for growing agave. 


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  • 04 of 11

    Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italy

    parmesan cheese
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    Parmesan is often called the king of cheeses, and European Union law protects the crown. The cheese can only be produced in a certain region of northern Italy—European law dictates that if the cheese is similar but not produced there, it can’t be called Parmigiano-Reggiano (or the translation, Parmesan). Outside of Europe, however, using the name is fair game. One way to check and see if you’re getting the real deal? At one year old, the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano hand inspects every wheel looking for imperfections. If the cheese passes, it gets imprinted with an official Parmigiano-Reggiano stamp. After two years, it will be ready for sale, and have a savory, nutty taste. Lesser quality imitations can be bitter.

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  • 05 of 11

    Buffalo Mozzarella, Italy

    making mozzarella cheese
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    Buffalo mozzarella, made from the milk of the Italian water buffalo, has been a protected food since the early 1990s, and, by law, can only be produced in certain regions of Italy. While the cheese has been granted a DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) label to indicate if it’s been produced near Naples, the cheese’s birthplace, mozzarella from water buffalo is made around the world, including in Switzerland and the United States. Many cheese makers, however, find it difficult to replicate out side of Italy, where it’s made fresh daily. Authentic buffalo mozzarella is incredibly creamy and flavorful, due to the fact that buffalo milk has twice the fat as cow milk. 

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  • 06 of 11

    Cornish Pasty, England

    Cornish pasty
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    If you want to call your handpie a Cornish Pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe and is considered a national dish of England, it’s got to follow some rules. Cornish pasties must be filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (yellow turnip in Cornwall, rutabaga to a lot of the other parts of the world), onion and salt and pepper. To the unfamiliar eye, it may look like an empanada, but regulation dictates it must be shaped like the letter “D” and be crimped on one side — not on the top. Don’t get it twisted.

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  • 07 of 11

    Haggis, Scotland

    Traditional scottish meal of haggis, mash and turnips
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    While Scotland hasn’t enacted any laws to protect the production of haggis, a savory pudding made with sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, oats, spices and stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, the United States has banned the import of the food because sheep’s lung has been deemed unfit for human consumption by the FDA. Some chefs and companies in the United States will make special versions for expats, but will leave out the sheep’s lung, and use an artificial casing instead of stomach. If you want the real thing, book a flight to Scotland, and be sure to wash it down with plenty of whisky.

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  • 08 of 11

    Neapolitan Pizza, Italy

    Authentic, Neapolitan margherita pizza
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    In America, pizza is a grip-it-and-rip-it, anything goes kind of food, but there are legitimate regulations surrounding the pie in Europe. To be authentic Neapolitian pizza, it’s got to be made with San Marzano tomatoes grown in the volcanic plains near Mount Vesuvius, and topped with buffalo mozzarella cheese. The pizza is a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed product in Europe, which means it has been made the same way consistently for 30 years or more and has “specific characteristics” which set it apart from other food in its category. 


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  • 09 of 11

    Bourbon, United States

    The Angels Envy
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    While most bourbon in the United States is made in Kentucky, it’s a common misconception that it must be made in the Bluegrass State.  There are some federal regulations, though, that the spirit must meet to be called bourbon: It’s got to be made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred new oak barrels, which give bourbon its distinctive vanilla and caramel flavors. To have “Kentucky bourbon” on the label, it must be made in Kentucky and have been aged at least one year. To say “straight bourbon” on the label, it must have been aged at least two, says Fred Minnick, the author of “Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of American Whiskey.” Tennessee Whiskey, on the other hand, meets all the federal requirements of bourbon, but is then filtered through charcoal to mellow and round out the harsh edges, says Jeff Arnett, the Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller.

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  • 10 of 11

    Champagne, France

    Long view of grape vineyards in Cramant
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    The world's favorite sparkling wine must be produced in the Champagne region of France and also follow specific production rules, such as vineyard management, how the grapes are pressed, and how much time the wine rests on the lees (dead yeast) before bottling. What sets wine made in methode Champenoise apart from other sparkling wine that is carbonated in a vat is that the second fermentation occurs within the bottle, producing tiny, fine bubbles. This is where it gets confusing. Wine produced anywhere in the world can be made in Champagne style with that second bottle fermentation, and it will often taste very close to Champagne, but true fans say that they can still tell the difference that the terroir—the geographic area, land and weather—makes.

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  • 11 of 11

    Irish Whiskey, Ireland

    Tullamore Dew

    Tax law actually helped create Irish whiskey’s distinctive style. Single malt whiskey is typically distilled at one distillery completely from malted barley, but during British rule in the early 1800s, the government began to tax malted barley. To avoid some of the tax, Irish distillers started to mix green, unmalted barley with the typical malted barley before distilling, giving the whiskey a creamy texture and spicy notes, and creating a uniquely Irish style explains Jane Maher, a Tullamore Dew brand ambassador. Legally, Irish whiskey can be single malt, pot still whiskey (that combo of malted and green barley) and can be mixed with distillate made from grain, but it must be aged at least three years in oak barrels. If it’s a blend of at least two of those three different kinds, it must be labeled “Blended Irish Whiskey.”