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Sep 3, 2003 05:22 PM

Bringing goodies from overseas

  • f

I am going to Paris shortly and hope to bring back some foods such as cheese, sausage, etc. Can anyone give me a brief summary of the rules regarding bringing these items into the states. Also any packing tips would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance

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  1. Hi Foodsnob,

    Sorry for laughing, but since this issue deals with U.S. Customs, and about half a dozen other agencies, there is no easy way to give a brief summary.

    (Chowhound Team, this from the United States Customs Service website..." This is an official Web site of the United States Customs Service and is provided as a public service. Information presented on the site is considered public information and may be distributed or copied for non-commercial purposes.")

    Here, from the U.S. Customs website:

    "Food Products
    You may bring bakery items and certain cheeses into the United States. APHIS publishes a booklet, Traveler's Tips, that offers extensive information about bringing food products into the country. For more information, or for a copy of Traveler's Tips, contact USDA-APHIS-PPQ, Permit Unit, 4700 River Road, Unit 133, Riverdale, MD 20737, or call(301) 734-8645.

    Some imported foods are also subject to requirements of the Food and Drug Administration.

    Meats, Livestock, and Poultry
    The regulations governing meat and meat products are very strict: you may not bring back fresh, dried, or canned meats or meat products from most foreign countries. Also, you may not bring in food products that have been prepared with meat.

    The regulations on importing meat and meat products change frequently because they are based on disease outbreaks in different areas of the world. APHIS, which regulates meats and meat products as well as fruits and vegetables, invites you to call for more information on importing meats. (The phone number listed above should work - AP)"

    Good luck, and have a good trip!


    6 Replies
    1. re: Andy P.

      I had always thought you could bring in anything that's canned. Had an ox tongue I'd purchased at Harrod's in a can about three inches thick and six inches in diameter taken from me and I was threatened with a $250 fine and some kind of stamp in my passport identifying me as a known tongue transporter or similar. They said they'd be incinerating the whole thing at some phenomenal temperature. No more fun food gifts for my stay at home friends.

      1. re: JmVikmanis

        Last time I went back to the States from here in Tokyo, I'd made a huge sub/hoagie/grinder to have on the plane. Beautiful slices of Kamakura ham, kurobuta ham, dried salami, and this wonderful wet salami made just down the street from my house, using Sechuan peppercorns. Only ate half on the plane. Got through Immigration, heading to Customs/Agriculture, and realized that I still had half a sandwich.

        This is 7:30 in the morning, and I approach the USDA inspector, tell him about my venal sin, and he asks me, "how fast can you eat?". I was escorted over to a side office between Immigration and Customs, by an armed Customs officer, and scarfed the rest of my sandwich.

        I was also told that the if they had decided to pursue it, I would have gotten the "stamp" in my passport.

        Better to err on the side of caution, that's my new motto.


        1. re: Andy P.

          A couple of years ago, returning from Rome, I had packed a piece of salumi purchased at an alimentari. I filled out the entry form indicating that I was, indeed, entering the US with some meat. I was directed to the USDA guys who relieved me of my package. When I asked if they were now going to make themselves some sandwiches they insisted that I follow them into a ten foot square room where they fed the meat into a huge grinder.

          1. re: Dale

            A couple of years ago, I was driving from my home here in Mexico to the border at McAllen, Texas. I packed a cooler full of drinks and fruit for the journey. My fruit consisted of grapes (imported to Mexico from Chile) and half a dozen Red Delicious apples (still with their little stickers on) from the State of Washington. When I crossed into the USA, the customs guys wanted to look in the cooler. What did they confiscate? Not the grapes, folks. 'But wait, those apples have little stickers showing that they are a product of the USA!' "Doesn't matter, ma'm, you're bringing them in from Mexico." Go figure.

      2. re: Andy P.
        Joan Kureczka

        They worry most about pork and beef products. You can legally bring back tinned foie gras. Technically even other canned meats are not allowed, according to the APHIS detailed info. Or so I recall from my June research. I had no problem bringing in the canned foie gras even though they asked to look at it.

        1. re: Andy P.

          I had a big bag of kumera from New Zealand which I *desperately* wanted to cook for my husband, and spent a hopeful 15 minutes explaining to the customs officer what it was while he leafed through a huge binder. Alas, it was not to be.

          I have heard from many people that New Zealand is the most difficult country into which to bring food - I had to throw away a beautiful temple orange and a stupid bananna when I arrived there. That was one well traveled bananna - by that point it had been on at least three continents, but New Zealand said no.

        2. Don't even TRY bringing meat into the U.S! Last year, when I returned from Shanghai, I was nailed for posessing a nice chunk of cured Jinhua ham my brother-in-law had slipped into my suitcase along with some other goodies. I hade to pay a $50 fine on the spot and the next time I went through customs (from Canada, yet) I was hauled into the inspectors office and given the third degree.

          1. Blue ice and take it with you. It will keep food cold for 24 hours. You can bring cheese into the U. S. but not salami, proscuitto, etc. (There's a seriously overweight beagle at Washington's Dulles Airport who maintains his weight from sniffing out Tuscan salami, his favorite!) Don't worry about wine and the amount-I've had my luggage opened with 17 bottles of wine and Customs just looked at me knowingly for the alcoholic that they were convinced I must be! It was the Tuscan salami form Greve in Chianti that they-and the dog-were focused on.
            When you get onto the plane ask the flight attendant if you can store something in their refrigerator. If the package is not excessively large, more than likely they will let you. This is important because we're talking 9 to 12 hours of refrigeration by doing this. I've actually carried FROZEN FOOD from both Paris and London that was only begining to thaw out when I landed in the D. C. suburbs. I've also carried gorgonzola au naturale from Bologna packed with blue ice that was cold and "fresh" when unpacked 12 hours later after landing. Even 1/4 wheels of reggiano have survived doing this as well as eppousse.
            Blue ice.

            1. I've brought sausage back from Poland on a number of occasions and have always made it through. Others I know haven't been so lucky. Most say the food is just taken from them and "disposed of," but a few South African friends were telling me that they'd heard of fines up to $50,000 if you're caught with a bit of biltong. Most recently, I happened to be coming back clean and was singled out to have my bags x-rayed at the agricultural screening stand. I noticed that they didn't ask to scan my camera bag, so perhaps that's the place to hide the goodies if you want to be sneaky. It's about the size and shape of a small ham hock . . .

              Of course, what this all adds up to is that it's a crapshoot, so proceed at your own risk!

              1. l
                Linda Rudolph

                Most all cheeses except "soft" are fine, but meats are another matter. They must be canned ONLY.