Aristolochic acids (AAs) are nitrophenanthrene carboxylic acids naturally produced by Aristolochia plants. These plants were widely used to prepare herbal remedies until AAs were observed to be highly nephrotoxic and carcinogenic to humans. Although the use of AA-containing Aristolochia plants in herbal medicine is prohibited in countries worldwide, emerging evidence nevertheless has indicated that AAs are the causative agents of Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN), an environmentally derived disease threatening numerous residents of rural farming villages along the Danube River in countries of the Balkan Peninsula. This perspective updates recent findings on the identification of AAs in food as a result of the root uptake of free AAs released from the decayed seeds of Aristolochia clematitis L., in combination with their presence and fate in the environment. The potential link between AAs and the high prevalence of chronic kidney diseases in China is also discussed.