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Jun 7, 2001 06:20 PM

cheeses you can get in Canada but are illegal in the U.S.

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After reading the thread about 'smuggling the extra fatty', in the Montreal group, which brings to light the fact that some foods, like certain cheeses, are illegal in the U.S. but not in Canada, I thought I'd ask this in the general board: What are some names of cheese that I can try in Canada that are downright illegal in the U.S.? Does the border patrol keep a list of 'illegal cheeses' or can they really tell just by name which is unpasturized for less than 60 days and which are not? My understanding is, this is the criteria for illegal cheese in the U.S.--if it is an unpasturized cheese aged for less than 60 days.

I actually did try stopping at a couple of cheese stores in Montreal and Toronto on previous visits to ask about which cheeses I might try which are not allowed in the U.S., but they didn't have a clue. I even explained that I wanted an unpasturized cheese aged for less than 60 days, but I don't think they really knew for sure how long they were aged. For this reason, I'd like some help in knowing what to try, which fits my question. It would be a novelty knowing that I was sampling a kind of cheese in Canada, knowing I wouldn't be able to do the same thing south of the border. I'm also told the flavor is much better for certain cheeses, which is the reason I want to try them to compare, not because I'm itching to try some forbidden fruit. Well, maybe that's part of it too. But I'm not looking to go to Amsterdam to freely try drugs too! Can anyone tell me what to try? (Kinds of cheese that is!) Any info would be appreciated.

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  1. I believe I read (or heard?) that real French Camembert cannot be imported into the U.S.--what we get here is a pastuerized verson. Whether the real stuff is available in Canada, I don't know.

    1. It’s easier in America to buy a gun than French cheese...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Kholvaitar

        As noted in the blog this is linked from, that statement is only partially true (about both guns and French cheeses). The only banned cheeses are raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days. Several of the cheeses on the poster are not banned at all, since they are hard cheeses that are always aged at least 60 days. Of the others, some are available in non-raw milk versions and some in versions that are imported at just over 60 days. Of the eleven cheeses in the photo, I've personally purchased nine in the US. I don't know anything about buying guns, but I live in California where there are state-level restrictions on assault weapons, which I believe would make it more difficult to buy the weapons in the photo than to buy Roquefort.

        Getting back to the original topic (which, I do realize, is more than a decade old), I recently brought half a dozen cheeses back from Canada. No problem. I did check with the cheesemonger when I purchased them about any legal issues bringing them back to the US.

      2. Reblochon,Saint Nectaire to name just a couple and you are correct about Camembert though they do a longer aged for the US market the same with Morbier.
        You will have to do some homework to see which Cheeses you will want to pick up and then see if they are importing the extra aged ones(same as the US) or the lesser aged(traditional). There are also some, like Reblochon that are just unavailable in the US.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          You do realize that you are replying to a question asked almost 12 years ago, don't you? :-)

          Canada has the same laws regarding importation as the US. Thus, the 60-day rule applies there to raw milk cheeses being imported for sale. As far as raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days, the US bans their sale at the federal level, i.e., everywhere in the country. However, in Canada, they are regulated at the provincial level. Quebec now allows raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days to be sold, as long as a cheesemaker follows strict rules with respect to milk quality and sanitation. Other Canadian provinces still prohibit such cheeses from being marketed.

        2. As of April 20, 2012 you can bring in whatever cheese you wish into the US. Some are difficult to have a wholesaler import, but for personal use, you may carry-in anything. On
          my last trip in from France declared and brought in well over 10 kilos of fresh raw product, no issue.

          1 Reply