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Getting cured meats from Italy to US

mangiabeve Dec 8, 2006 08:13 PM

I recently took a trip to Italy and tried to bring back some cured meat (vaccuum packed) in my carry-on luggage which was confiscated by Homeland Security... and I'm sure if I packed it in my checked luggage it would have been discovered upon screening. Any ideas?

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  1. erica RE: mangiabeve Dec 8, 2006 09:18 PM

    First of all, I don't think it was Homeland Security that took your salumi. Was it taken at the departure airport or upon arrival? Did you declare it? How was it wrapped, other than the vacuum packaging? (In foil, in zip loc bags??) What was the airport in question? Some are much more strict than others upon arrival...

    It is illegal, I believe, to bring any of this in but many people do manage...

    6 Replies
    1. re: erica
      mangiabeve RE: erica Dec 10, 2006 01:51 PM

      It was homeland security and it was upon arrival at jfk

      1. re: mangiabeve
        TheMan RE: mangiabeve Dec 21, 2006 12:52 AM

        JFK has a crack team. If you didn't get your checked bags, they get inspected 100%. bye bye sausage...or ham...or meat.

        1. re: TheMan
          weegi RE: TheMan Nov 18, 2009 06:41 AM

          To the MAN...
          I'm in italy and picking my family's olive trees this weekend. I'd like to bring home a stainless steel canister with 20+ litres of olive oil. SWISS airlines has no problem with it. Cost less than $200. Based on your prior posts I can only assume I will have not problem with the oil canister packed in my large suitcase but i'd hate to lose it at the port of entry so I'd love a verification... [i leave my country work shoes in my house there so I assume that will speed up my customs processing as well but let me know if there is anything else I should plan on.]
          Thanks MAN. Weegi.

          1. re: weegi
            Ruth Lafler RE: weegi Nov 18, 2009 09:13 AM

            The post you are replying to is almost three years old. The best thing to do is to check directly with customs.

      2. re: erica
        The Engineer RE: erica Dec 10, 2006 06:13 PM

        Customs is now part of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

        1. re: The Engineer
          erica RE: The Engineer Dec 10, 2006 08:42 PM

          Ouch..sorry I did not realize Customs was part of Homeland Security now....

      3. e
        Ellen RE: mangiabeve Dec 8, 2006 10:02 PM

        It's illegal to bring in cured meats into the US. The excuse is mad cow disease. The homeland security beagles keep their noses open for these smelly treats. I had the same thing happen to me bringing cured ham and sausages back from Spain (waaaah!) They did leave me the cheese though.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ellen
          usr.bin.eat RE: Ellen Dec 8, 2006 10:14 PM

          No, the reason is that any meat product imported into the US has to be packed at a facility that is inspected by the USDA. A real pain in the ass which is, for example, why the best Spanish jamon hasn't been available. But there are some manufacturers that have recently been certified.

          Since the OP got caught, you can bet that they'll get searched every time they enter through customs from now on.

          1. re: usr.bin.eat
            Velma RE: usr.bin.eat Dec 8, 2006 10:26 PM

            Maybe not. I was busted trying to sneak a German sausage through and although they just took it away from me, I was not searched at all the next time I went through. It might not haunt the OP forever.

            1. re: Velma
              usr.bin.eat RE: Velma Dec 9, 2006 12:24 AM

              That's surprising because your file gets flagged. Check out Gary Soup's experience:


              1. re: usr.bin.eat
                Velma RE: usr.bin.eat Dec 10, 2006 01:01 AM

                I just pulled the stupid female act on them and they went easy on me although I don't believe for a second that they really believed I had forgotten that I had it in my suitcase. They didn't fine me and clearly did not put a flag in my record (lucky for me). I won't ever do it again because the humiliation is not worth it.

        2. notmartha RE: mangiabeve Dec 8, 2006 10:20 PM

          No way really around it, unless you want to chance getting caught and getting the food confiscated (as you did). I was very sored tempted to just try that while stranded at the Madrid airport.

          My dad tried to get some meat jerky back from Hong Kong, and the sniffing dogs detected the scent even when the food was sealed in a canister.

          6 Replies
          1. re: notmartha
            omotosando RE: notmartha Dec 10, 2006 04:53 AM

            Where are all these sniffing dogs? I've never seen one at LAX when returning from abroad, but maybe it depends what time of day you are coming in and from what country.

            1. re: omotosando
              notmartha RE: omotosando Dec 10, 2006 06:08 PM

              My parents live in NYC, so it was probably JFK, and it was about 2 years ago. The purpose of the dogs are to sniff bombs and drugs, not meat jerky, but I suspect they liked the smell.

              I was going to ask them to bring back some jerky from HK when they went again this September.

              1. re: notmartha
                butterfly RE: notmartha Dec 11, 2006 12:45 AM

                We've been sniffed by the dreaded beagles in Philly, DC and NY.

                1. re: butterfly
                  notmartha RE: butterfly Dec 11, 2006 01:23 AM

                  Good gravy. That will make the probability of a successful smuggle very low. You may be able to fool custom agents, but not the nose of those dogs.

                  Plus having the dogs getting excited over your stuff in this terrorist awareness age isn't very much fun, I would think.

                  1. re: butterfly
                    paper_bag_princess RE: butterfly Dec 5, 2007 02:53 AM

                    There are food sniffing dogs at the Toronto airport as well.

                2. re: omotosando
                  sally from LA RE: omotosando Dec 11, 2006 07:35 PM

                  The beagle is at LAX every time I return from overseas!

              2. byrd RE: mangiabeve Dec 9, 2006 11:26 PM

                my aunt used to bring back the straight from the field ,small ancient stone pressed olive oil every year, no more.

                1. m
                  MakingSense RE: mangiabeve Dec 10, 2006 12:21 AM

                  I never took a chance even when I traveled on a diplomatic passport - that beagle doesn't know the difference when he sniffs something forbidden.
                  Whenever I have to go through Customs, I make sure all the food products are in a separate bag, I tell them right off the bat that I have to go through the Ag line, I declare everything.
                  I also print out the list of what I can bring through a particular port of entry. If the Customs agent questions something, I have the regulation in writing. It is possible to bring in fish, for instance, through some airports and not all agents know that.
                  When you are polite and cooperative, they are very easy to get along with. I've gotten away with paying absolutely no duty on some of my stuff.

                  1. s
                    Sherri RE: mangiabeve Dec 10, 2006 12:37 AM

                    Even though I have Beagles at home, I felt betrayed when I was narc-ed by a Customs Beagle at JFK with a whole prosciutto -- ouch. I really thought it was legal because I'd read that prosciutto was being allowed into the US.
                    Importer's license required, etc. and I was simply a dumb traveler.
                    Hope the dog enjoyed his delish supper. I'm now sadder but wiser.

                    1. m
                      MikeG RE: mangiabeve Dec 10, 2006 01:04 AM

                      "at JFK with a whole prosciutto"

                      Ouch! That's one expensive seizure!

                      1. pikawicca RE: mangiabeve Dec 10, 2006 01:47 AM

                        The reason for excluding foreign meat products predates mad cow: it's anthrax, a devastating disease. If you care about the welfare of farm animals in the U.S. (and the people who eat them), don't smuggle -- it's not a game.

                        1. Sam Fujisaka RE: mangiabeve Dec 10, 2006 01:47 AM

                          PACK FOOD IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            butterfly RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 11, 2006 12:46 AM

                            Some airports--like Philly--make you pick up your checked baggage, go through customs and then recheck it. So packing the goods in checked bags won't help you in this case...

                            1. re: butterfly
                              Das Ubergeek RE: butterfly Dec 11, 2006 04:09 PM

                              Every airport I've ever flown internationally from requires this as well. It ranges from the ridiculously easy (are there any customs agents at all in Marseille??) to the ridiculously overblown (yes, Dallas-Fort Worth, I'm talking to you).

                          2. m
                            MakingSense RE: mangiabeve Dec 10, 2006 05:08 AM

                            It's because of hoof and mouth disease (aphthoso/aftosa) not anthrax. Not harmful to humans but devastating to livestock.

                            Checking your bags makes no difference. You must claim your bags before going through Customs.

                            This is NOT a game. There are reasons for the rules. Many pests that infect plants and livestock have been hitchhikers in baggage. Why would you do something so selfish for one or two meals? It could wipe out a farmer's entire crop.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: MakingSense
                              Sam Fujisaka RE: MakingSense Dec 10, 2006 12:45 PM

                              That makes sense. Yes, hitchhiking pests in luggage are an ag danger (and you don't need food tiems for them to come along). On the other hand cured meat in a vac pac will not carry hoof and mouth. Somehow the customs people need a better education. US customs took from me smoked yellowfin that we caught off the Kenyan coast and smoked; Colombian customs once tried to take a bag of California grown Japanese rice. Both of these pose no dangers.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                Velma RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 10, 2006 01:52 PM

                                I guess that was the problem I had with them taking away my sausage as well. It was completely vacuum sealed and I didn't see how it could possibly be a risk to anybody at that point. However, I have learned my lesson.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                  upslims RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 28, 2006 07:34 PM

                                  Customs agriculture is trained by the USDA, its not like we make up rules and just run with em'. Although I wish we could, my job would be 10 times more fun. Don't know why you lost your fish, was it in contact with any other meats? That's the only reason I can figure. Or was there larvae feeding on the fish? Eventhough they're not a concern it might have been taken for that reason.

                                2. re: MakingSense
                                  angelo04 RE: MakingSense Dec 11, 2006 02:08 AM

                                  Rules Smules, a little prosciutto or fresh olive oil from the fileds isn't going to hurt anyone.

                                  1. re: angelo04
                                    Das Ubergeek RE: angelo04 Dec 11, 2006 04:11 PM

                                    Actually, the fruit-fly problem that decimated California's produce crops in the middle 1990s came from one stinking banana from God-knows-where.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                      angelo04 RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 11, 2006 04:55 PM

                                      Again, a little prosciutto or fresh olive oil from the fields isn't going to hurt anyone or anything. Fruits and veggies are a different story.

                                      1. re: angelo04
                                        Das Ubergeek RE: angelo04 Dec 11, 2006 06:01 PM

                                        You should definitely go work for the USDA then... let them benefit from your knowledge so that the customs rules can be changed.

                                        What drives me crazy is when people get all angry at the customs officer at the airport. It's not like he wants to take your ham or whatever... complain to your elected officials.

                                        1. re: angelo04
                                          MakingSense RE: angelo04 Dec 11, 2006 06:26 PM

                                          You can keep insisting that it won't hurt anyone but it might be useful to learn the facts.
                                          Olive oil can be brought into the US. I've done it. So have others who have posted here.
                                          Meat is a different matter because of a very real and dangerous virus that won't hurt you or other humans, but could cause billions of dollars worth of damage to livestock, farmers and the economy.
                                          Before you ignore that possibility to illegally smuggle in a kilo or so of prosciutto, start with this information on aphthovirus and how the Agriculture Department and Customs have kept it out of the US since 1929.

                                          1. re: MakingSense
                                            byrd RE: MakingSense Dec 11, 2006 07:00 PM

                                            the problem nowdays with olive oil is the restriction on the size of containers.

                                            1. re: byrd
                                              Das Ubergeek RE: byrd Dec 11, 2006 07:37 PM

                                              Wrap it up carefully and put it in the centre of your checked baggage. No restriction on the size of liquids in your checked baggage -- I brought back 2 cases of Leinenkugels from Minneapolis in checked baggage!

                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                angelo04 RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 11, 2006 08:20 PM

                                                My experience with olive Oil has 50/50. Sometimes it's not issue, sometimes it is. Nothing like freshly pressed. I just can't buy into what is being said about prosciutto. Rules are too stringent.

                                  2. z
                                    Zabalburu RE: mangiabeve Dec 11, 2006 01:44 AM

                                    I've been lucky enough to not be caught sneaking in ham and chorizo. Oftentimes there's only one beagle for about 10 carousels, so you can wait for him/her to go by before you take your suitcase down.

                                    To the "it's not a game" folks, the USDA regulations are totally outdated in many cases and not worth following -- they're not protecting us, just depriving us. My understanding is you couldn't bring in products from Spain because of "porcine plague" which I don't think has been an issue for many, many years. Now a pork facility has to have a USDA inspector to export to the U.S. What a crock! Hams that are made at a factory not inspected by the USDA are just as plague-free as ones that are. I think you can buy Spanish chorizo in the states, but jamon iberico is a different story. It is in such short supply and can sell so for so much money in Europe or Japan, that why would anybody bother to jump through hoops to sell to the United States?

                                    If anybody has started selling it here, let me know and I'll buy it legally and stop trying to hoodwink our patriotic beagles!

                                    1. m
                                      MakingSense RE: mangiabeve Dec 11, 2006 01:58 AM

                                      Hoof and mouth disease -aftosa - is a virus and it survives vacuum sealing. It can survive some ordinary cooking. Humans are not at risk for it but it can devastate livestock herds.

                                      The Department of Agriculture doesn't make up these rules just to screw up your culinary lifestyle. There are good reasons for them that have to do with protecting American agriculture from disease and pests. Individuals don't have the right to decide which rules they'd like to follow and which are inconvenient and stupid and therefore OK to break.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: MakingSense
                                        Sam Fujisaka RE: MakingSense Dec 11, 2006 02:26 AM

                                        OK, OK, but as an agricultural scientist, I still have to ask you how are the disease organism going to go from the vacuum packed goods in our smugglers' kitchens to the herds?

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                          MakingSense RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 11, 2006 03:17 AM

                                          They have to make rules that can be applied equally to all. They can't let you get away with it and then stop others.

                                          You might take your meat to a high-rise in Manhattan where it has no chance of infecting a herd.
                                          The guy behind you in the Ag line at customs has meat that carries the aftosa virus and he gives some to his friend at the Union Square Green Market who carries it to a small organic farm in the Hudson Valley to share with his family; the virus-contaminated wrappings and scraps come into contact with the free-range swine on that farm. The virus spreads rapidly among the animals and from farm to farm.

                                          Hawaii and California are particularly strict about pests that can be carried on fruits and vegetable. Can you blame them?
                                          Agriculture is worth millions and millions of dollars to those states. An entire crop could be wiped out because somebody had to bring fruit to his friends.

                                          You can buy prosciutto and olive oil in the US. It's irresponsible to jeopardize US agriculture for the cheap thrill of smuggling something from abroad.

                                          For more info: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/clearin...

                                          1. re: MakingSense
                                            The Engineer RE: MakingSense Dec 11, 2006 04:12 PM

                                            Making Sense, living up to your moniker!

                                            1. re: MakingSense
                                              Das Ubergeek RE: MakingSense Dec 11, 2006 04:14 PM

                                              Not to mention that if your passport is flagged and you've been "caught and released" before, at some point they're going to slam the book on you, and it will be way more expensive for you than flying to Spain or Hong Kong or wherever and enjoying the food there.

                                              That said, the customs folks have permitted me to keep my Arbequina olive oil from Spain as long as it's in a sealed jug.

                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                Sam Fujisaka RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 11, 2006 09:13 PM

                                                OK, OK, I'll shut up, first because we grew peaches and oranges in the Central Valley of California in the 50s and 60s and had to worry about exotic pests and diseases; and second because I work for one of the international agricultural research centers where we have very strict rules regarding all germplasm shipments. In the end we may have to put up with blind over-enforcement for all based on some far-fetched scenarios.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                  Zabalburu RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 11, 2006 10:34 PM

                                                  I'm no anarchist, but I don't think I'm willing to submit to blind over-enforcement. I have a feeling even Talking Sense drives 56 miles per hour on the highway now and then. But you have convinced me to do some research to make sure I'm not endangering our meat supply... And it's not about the cheap thrill of beating the law -- it may sound corny, but it's about sharing a great part of your trip, of your home country, with your friends and family who couldn't be there with you. There are some foods you just can't get here (or couldn't in the past).

                                                  That said, it looks like you can buy jamon iberico at tienda.com, though in large, and therefore very expensive sizes... Has anybody tried it/ have an opinion?

                                                  1. re: Zabalburu
                                                    butterfly RE: Zabalburu Dec 11, 2006 11:28 PM

                                                    The jamón ibérico sold in the US won't be the best stuff--few producers will meet the requirements and some of the requirements are at odds with producing the best product--but it's a start. There are many products made from the iberian pig and they are all delicious. It remains to be seen which others will find a big enough market in the US to merit jumping through the USDA hoops.

                                        2. u
                                          upslims RE: mangiabeve Dec 19, 2006 08:49 PM

                                          You all sound like a bunch of smugglers to me. I work for Customs as an agriculture inspector. The fines just went up to $300 for FTD. Also, all your checked luggage must get picked up so good luck with that. Meats not allowed for a reason. If you have any agriculture releated questions feel free to ask.

                                          19 Replies
                                          1. re: upslims
                                            Sherri RE: upslims Dec 19, 2006 09:18 PM

                                            "You all sound like a bunch of smugglers to me" is a bit harsh. In my earlier post, I wrote: "I really thought it was legal because I'd read that prosciutto was being allowed into the US". That does not make me a smuggler. I made an honest mistake.

                                            1. re: Sherri
                                              upslims RE: Sherri Dec 19, 2006 11:39 PM

                                              You're not a smuggler Sherry, the only mistake you made was accusing the K9 handler of feeding the prosciutto to the dog. That doesn't happen. You're Customs form asks if you're bringing and meats/animal products. Did you check yes or no? Because if you checked "no" for meats, then you attempted to smuggle and got caught by the dog.

                                              1. re: upslims
                                                Sherri RE: upslims Dec 20, 2006 02:57 PM

                                                I absolutely checked the box YES for meats because I was bringing in a whole San Daniele prosciutto that I believed to be perfectly legal. How many ways can I explain that I was not smuggling. I was even chatting with the dog handler telling him how pleased I was about the prosciutto ban being lifted. Imagine my complete surprise when I was told my prosciutto would be confiscated. Going through the bureaucracy, and being treated like a criminal, was very unpleasant and needlessly humiliating, especially when I believed my actions were perfectly legal.

                                                I emphatically did NOT accuse the K9 handler of anything. I wrote that I hoped the dog enjoyed his delish supper. There is a marked difference between these two statements.

                                                upslims, you do not enhance your position as our government representative when you make blanket statements that are only partially true. Certainly the U.S. Customs Service performs a very valuable service to the citizens of this country and we have every right to expect professionalism in return.

                                            2. re: upslims
                                              Sam Fujisaka RE: upslims Dec 20, 2006 03:49 AM

                                              upslims, I respect you and your work. Not being sarcastic, you should get together with MakingSense. And without provoking you, when you say, "If you have any agricultural related questions feel free to ask," do you mean that you have the answers to ag questions or that you have the current policies on tap?

                                              1. re: upslims
                                                nrxchef RE: upslims Dec 21, 2006 04:23 PM

                                                I have a question. Is lardo (the Italian seasoned pork fat) okay to bring in? I haven't really been able to ascertain whether it's legal or not--that is, whether it's merely cured or actually cooked. It's so pure and white that I'm wondering if it is in fact uncooked and unrefined--but the specimen that found its way home with me is attached to skin that actually has some bristle on it. It was vacuum packed by the producer--da amerigo in sevigno--but the dog never found me out. I flew into JFK and always get hassled by the Agriculture Dept. Have I smuggled?

                                                1. re: nrxchef
                                                  MakingSense RE: nrxchef Dec 21, 2006 05:04 PM

                                                  Your question interests me because I'm on the Public Affairs side of this. Upslims and TheMan seem to be enforcement. My job is to explain US policy to media and others.

                                                  The Customs declarations form asks if you are bringing meat or animal products into the US. Lardo is a pork product, therefore an animal product (with skin and bristle) and you are aware of that, and you should have checked Yes. You would have been diverted to the Ag inspectors, dog or no dog.

                                                  Is there some way that the US Customs Service can better explain this to you and others?
                                                  We obviously can't list every single product and every variation of it in every language.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                                    nrxchef RE: MakingSense Dec 21, 2006 05:38 PM

                                                    I checked yes on the form, as I was bringing in wine, aceto balsamico, truffles, truffles in oil, tea, chocolate, pecorino and parmigiano reggiano. I always check Yes, and then I'm asked what I'm bringing. The lardo kind of intentionally slipped my mind in all the kerfuffle--there was a big commotion of shuffling bags and describing the huge amount of foodstuffs. I checked Yes and was compliant and polite, they waived me through. That has always been our experience, and we usually brink home edible souvenirs.

                                                    1. re: nrxchef
                                                      MakingSense RE: nrxchef Dec 21, 2006 05:57 PM

                                                      You answered your own question. Yes, as you said, it "intentionally slipped your mind," so you did smuggle. You had one thing in the middle of a lot of stuff, caused a bit of a diversion, and it got missed. Since you had checked "yes" you probably wouldn't have been fined or arrested.
                                                      Nice trick. Fortunately nothing came of it.
                                                      My customs declations form usually gets me diverted to Ag as well. I can bring back an enormous amount of foodstuffs without violating the law - as you did - and frankly it's not really worth it for one chunk of fat.
                                                      BTW, I'm not without some sympathy. Lardo with truffles on good Tuscan bread may be one of the best things I've ever eaten but I eat my fill while I'm in Italy.

                                                    2. re: MakingSense
                                                      omotosando RE: MakingSense Dec 25, 2006 09:47 AM

                                                      MakingSense, just so I understand, is dried fish an "animal" product that should be declared? Someone else in this thread said there is no restriction on bringing in dried fish, but my question is does it need to be declared?

                                                      1. re: omotosando
                                                        MakingSense RE: omotosando Dec 26, 2006 04:48 AM

                                                        Somewhere in this thread or the other one that TheMan has been running to answer questions, he mentions fish. I believe he says that dried fish is OK but you should just take the time to skim the threads and find the answer.
                                                        I have brought back fresh, frozen and smoked fish with no trouble. Actually large quanities.
                                                        The Man did say that if fish has any signs at all of insect infestation, it will be seized. That is sometimes a problem with dried fish.

                                                        You have to declare everything you buy overseas. Everything. A tube of toothpaste. A new pair of socks. Just the rule. And absolutely any and all food products.
                                                        Just say Yes.

                                                        1. re: MakingSense
                                                          TheMan RE: MakingSense Dec 26, 2006 05:15 AM

                                                          fish is okay. like makingsense said (lots of good info from this person by the way) insects crawling in it may cause seizure. most are flesh eating maggots and are okay. Beetles, however, cause some concern so the item will be seized.

                                                    3. re: nrxchef
                                                      TheMan RE: nrxchef Dec 21, 2006 05:47 PM

                                                      Well, the rub is with Italian seasoned pork fat is that it depends on what processing facility produced it and if it has a date/time stamp that accompanies it. Yeah, like that will happen. Also, even if you do have those, different ports have port policies that require the seizure of all meats regardless of country of origin.

                                                      A very complicated manual that we use is found here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/manuals...

                                                      That is for the importation of cargo goods or bulk items that normally apply to commercial shipments, but it has a list of hams that can be entered into the US. Now, there is also a section for passenger baggage where your goods would fall into for inspection. That is found here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/manuals...

                                                      As you can see, they don't make it easy. Also, it could depend on the inspector you get. Our port is really good, but I am sure there are others out there who just toss everything. I make it a point to check everything I seize if I have any doubts whatsoever no matter how busy it gets.

                                                      1. re: TheMan
                                                        nrxchef RE: TheMan Dec 21, 2006 06:02 PM

                                                        It seems to me that the rub is whether the fat was pasteurized or not, no? It might not be a "cured" (that is, uncooked) meat. It's so purely white and unstreaky that I wonder if it can be uncooked--it looks refined. Even prosciutto--which is cured, not cooked--has streaks of meat, etc. It is concievable that lardo is the pure all-fat fat-back of the pig, simply cured as prosciutto. But it seems strange--there are no veins or other tissues in it--it looks like rendered lard, pressed onto pigskin. The cryovac'ed package is actually stamped and dated, with a lot number and some sort of Emilia Romana production code.
                                                        Admittedly, it was disingenuous of me to "forget" to mention the lardo, but if I'm not sure whether the mode of production for this arcane foodstuff passes regs (and I'm fairly knowlegable about food), then I'm sure the Ag. worker might not know it either. Ive tried to look it up, but no luck. It's not actually a cured ham and it's not a salami--and for all I know, it's pasteurized. My fear is that the Ag. Dept. would just chuck it on suspicion.
                                                        BTW Absinthe is illegal to import for personal consumption? I brought some in from England, made somewhere in Eastern Europe. I thought it was just illegal to import or make with the intention of selling it in the U.S. (unless it's fake and not made with wormwood)?

                                                        1. re: nrxchef
                                                          TheMan RE: nrxchef Dec 22, 2006 11:52 PM

                                                          yeah, absinthe is illegal if it has the wormwood. again, some folks i work with will seize and pour out anything that remotely says absinthe. There have been some bottles that are in other languages and if they have the word absinthe on it anywhere, they go into the drain. that is a usda rule and one that came about, so we are told, because some farmer in sweeden chopped up his family with an axe after he drank a bottle of absinthe one night in the 1800s. plus, van gogh cut off his ear after drinking it (again, specious.) anyway all other countries either lifted the ban or have restrictions on how much of the active wormwood ingredient is in the bottle. still, we follow the rules and if we get it, we "let" the passenger abandon it and then pour it down the drain.
                                                          for your pork issue, if it is luncheon meat, we usually let that go like spam and what not. again, depends on the country. pate is usually good to go, unless it is a ruminant from a prohibited country. ugh, confusing!
                                                          had a good story from a couple of days ago, i asked a woman who was with 4 kids if she had any food, she said "NO WAY! NOT US!" her youngest daughter said "no, momma, we have..." and her momtold her to shut up and gave her death glare. I was like, "Hey there, it's okay, just tell me what you have." Poor little girl with tears welling up said "we have some peanuts...I'm so sorry momma!" jeeze. I told the mom "Don't you ever yell at your child for trying to tell the truth...shame on you." Then, escorted them through the madness at our lines and helped them get on their way. I'll probably get yelled at for that from her comment card response. But come on, little girl tries to tell the truth and gets yelled at from her maternal role model. no wonder people grow up all wierd.

                                                          1. re: nrxchef
                                                            MakingSense RE: nrxchef Dec 23, 2006 01:01 AM

                                                            Never discount the knowledge of the Ag guys. As The Man pointed out, many of them have Master's and Ph.D.'s. They may not all be fine chefs but they have an amazing amount of knowledge. You aren't sure what lardo is on the other hand. It's not "rendered lard, pressed onto pigskin." It really is just the subcutaneous fat layer of a pig, something we rarely see in the US because our pork isn't that fatty today. With veins or bits of meat, it would be called "streak o'lean." I've broken down whole pork carcasses and learned a lot from it. You should try to see one sometime to get an idea of exactly what pork products are before they are processed.
                                                            The government employs a lot of highly educated experts to evaluate all sorts of things. Customs and the IRS have fine arts, antiques and jewelry experts to authenticate and appraise items where duty and taxes are due. They can hold their own in any court proceeding when challenged. You're not dealing with amateurs.
                                                            Sometimes they make mistakes but look at the number of people they process every day and the number of individual decisions they have to make. A sausage here and some wormwood there ain't much.

                                                          2. re: TheMan
                                                            daisyto RE: TheMan Jul 8, 2009 10:29 AM

                                                            Can you tell me what do the custom agents do with the confiscated items? Do they really put them to waste? Also, is there a good link where I can find out which items can't be brought into the US from Canada? I'm always traveling to Canada but never brought back anything as I'm afraid they'd be confiscated.

                                                            1. re: daisyto
                                                              KTinNYC RE: daisyto Jul 8, 2009 10:40 AM


                                                              "The regulations governing meat and meat products are very strict. You may not import fresh, dried, or canned meats or meat products from most foreign countries into the United States. Also, you may not import 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 contact them for more information on importing meats. You may write to USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services National Center for Import/Export (NCIE), 4700 River Road, Unit 40, Riverdale, MD 20737-1231; or call (301) 734-7830."

                                                              1. re: daisyto
                                                                Ruth Lafler RE: daisyto Jul 8, 2009 10:47 AM

                                                                Yes, they really waste it -- the reason it's confiscated is that (whether you and I would agree or not), it's considered unsafe.

                                                                I think the rules for Canada are the same as for anywhere: generally speaking, no meat products or fresh produce. Raw milk cheeses must be at least 61 days old (despite what some cheese merchants will try to tell you, it doesn't matter whether it's vacuum packed or not, although it probably makes it less likely to be sniffed out by the beagle); aged cheeses are okay. Anything in a can or bottle should be okay from a customs point of view, although of course anything that isn't solid is subject to TSA rules about non-solids in carryons.

                                                                I poked around the web, and there doesn't appear to be a definitive list: the customs site refers you to the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Agriculture refers you back to customs. I emailed the Department of Agriculture about these circular referrals and they sent me a form response that referred me to the customs site -- most frustrating!

                                                            2. re: nrxchef
                                                              upslims RE: nrxchef Dec 23, 2006 01:12 AM

                                                              Yeah, unfortunately you smuggled. You smuggled because you didn't declare it. Pretty much all meats are prohibited. The only meats that I know are allowed (from European countries) are parma hams. And those need to have a button seal on the packaging and paperwork accompanying it. We seize pork fat all the time (slanina) from Romania, Bulgaria etc... The vacuum packing does nothing and I'm surprised the dog didn't sniff you out.

                                                          3. t
                                                            TheMan RE: mangiabeve Dec 20, 2006 03:25 AM

                                                            Yeah, I am also one of those ag inspectors who work at the airport and spoil your little "Welcome back from Europe Christmas sausage" parties that you want to throw. The point is very simple, don't buy any meat overseas and try to sneak it into the US. Certain animals abroad have diseases that we want to keep out of the US.

                                                            I asked the port vet about why we are so hard on European sausage (yes, i know that could be a double entendre) and she said that sometimes garbage may end up in the mouths of swine in certain areas of the US. Feed a pig a piece of that german sausage and...POW...swine fever in the US; no more Ballpark franks for the kiddies.

                                                            Yeah, I too think that is a little specious, but I and 2700 others are paid really good govt $ cash to keep it out of the US. If you don't like it, then start complaining to your elected officials and maybe you can dine on your summer sausage and absinthe from that European vacation you and the wifey took.

                                                            In the meantime, declare what you have as you are given many chances to amend. Our xrays and dogs are top of the line and can easily detect meat coming over the border...no matter how many bags or foil wraps you have it in. Oh, and don't try and rationalize that it isn't really "meat". The declaration clearly says "I/we are bringing FOOD back with us."

                                                            Also, don't treat us like second class citizens who are schmucks. Heck, I have a master's degree, 5 of the people I work with have PhDs, and the rest of the Aggies in my port have at least a BS degree. We are very serious about keeping bad things out of the US. Drugs, terrorists, pedophiles, and oh yes...ANIMAL AND PLANT DISEASES.

                                                            Finally, we don't eat what we seize. We incinerate it. Why the heck would we want to eat something from someone who we seized it from? That is ludicrous and simply insults our integrity.

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: TheMan
                                                              omotosando RE: TheMan Dec 20, 2006 08:40 AM

                                                              How about dried fish - any restrictions? I don't see how it could be harmful.

                                                              1. re: omotosando
                                                                TheMan RE: omotosando Dec 20, 2006 08:49 PM

                                                                Dried fish? bring all the fish you want. Actually, any seafood is good to go. Although the Philippines has a ban on certain shells that you cannot bring into the US because they are trying to protect them. They are the bigger ones and if you go to Fish and Wildlife's website, they have the details on those species. Also, Sturgeon Caviar is banned now too. Oh yeah, and seahorses. A fella brought a bag of about 400 seahorses into our port not too long ago and fish and wildlife confiscated them. Other than those items, I believe that seafood is good to go...if it is dead of course. Some people try to smuggle in live fish and live snails...that isn't okay.

                                                                The key thing is to declare everything. You declare and tell us what you have, than we can't penalize you the $300 bucks.

                                                                1. re: TheMan
                                                                  omotosando RE: TheMan Dec 21, 2006 09:21 AM

                                                                  Wow, I didn't even know what a seahorse was. Had to look it up. Boy are they ugly. Wikipedia says they are overfished, endangered and used in Chinese medicine.

                                                                  1. re: TheMan
                                                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: TheMan Dec 23, 2006 06:23 PM

                                                                    TheMan, my worst experience was having smoked sailfish and tuna confiscated in the US. We caught the fish off the Kenyan coast and smoked the lot in Nairobi. We and the fish were traveling back to Colombia (with no stops other than airports in the US). Now you say fish is OK. Frustrating.

                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                      TheMan RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 25, 2006 04:09 AM

                                                                      What port did you enter? When was it? We do get a lot of fish with maggots (NOT SAYING YOURS HAD MAGGOTS!) and I could see how a new ag spec would see a bag of meat with insects and seize the whole bag. Also, the fact that you were in transient should have been taken into consideration if it was in your checked baggage.

                                                                      Again, port policy is big.

                                                                      We get so much fish from Nigeria and Kenya, that I couldn't even count the times I've seen it. That item is Inspected and released. Sometimes, we get bush meat that comingles with the fish and the whole lot has to be seized.

                                                                      Again, I don't know what to tell you on this one. The amount of inspections that take place are incredible. If you only had fish, and there were no insects, and it was declared, and it was enterable at the time (which it should have been...unless it was at a time I did not work for CBP), then I apologize for what happened.

                                                                      Was it seized by CBP or by Fish and Wildlife. F AND W operates under different regs and the tuna (with dolphin) or sailfish may be regulated by them...but that is a stretch. Again, I would have to know when it came in and I would also have to talk to a Fish and wildlife specialist to see what their regs were then.

                                                                2. re: TheMan
                                                                  notmartha RE: TheMan Dec 20, 2006 03:23 PM

                                                                  Thanks for the explanation. It makes sense now - just wish I know the rationale for the shrinked wrapped meat products before. I know for some it seems like very low actual risk, but it's not really fair to affect others (farmers, etc.)'s livelihood just because of an individual's selfish taste preferences.

                                                                  I assume if you are carrying sausages in between US states it's OK?

                                                                  1. re: notmartha
                                                                    TheMan RE: notmartha Dec 20, 2006 08:52 PM

                                                                    yeah, transport between states is fine. although I think california has a strict plant transportation system that prohibits some types of plants from entering from other states. Michigan has an emerald ash borer ban that charges fines for moving firewood into/out of the state. they don't want that bug to go further than it is.

                                                                  2. re: TheMan
                                                                    Zabalburu RE: TheMan Dec 20, 2006 03:31 PM

                                                                    TheMan and upslims, I really appreciate your perspectives.

                                                                    I don't think anybody here is holding it against you that you're doing your job. Anybody who gets caught and holds it against you personally is a schmuck... or just upset and in the heat of the moment taking it out on, but that doesn't justify being rude to you.

                                                                    However, from TheMan's own explanation (correct me if I'm misinterpreting) it sounds like there's not very much risk in smuggling in some kinds of meat. It seems like the customs laws need to be more responsive to specific situations instead of using blanket prohibitions. Let's face it, my letters to Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse would be thrown in the garbage. There are far more powerful lobbies and interests at play than my potential once-a-year treat of chorizo.

                                                                    Upslims, not being confrontational here, just expressing my ideas: I don't think calling me a smuggler is much of an insult or a way to get me to change my mind. I respect anybody who makes an honest living working for the government, but do you really expect us to just have total confidence in every agency of every level of the government, and just accept that everything it tells us is correct? Anybody who thinks that hasn't been reading newspapers or learned their history. Alcohol was illegal in this country for 13 years, and anybody who made it was a moonshiner and anybody that snuck it in was a smuggler, but history has proven that the government was wrong on that one and the smugglers were reasonable.

                                                                    Sorry, but in my mind (and I suspect many other's) government does not necessarily equal right, and smuggler does not necessarily equal wrong/immoral.

                                                                    1. re: Zabalburu
                                                                      TheMan RE: Zabalburu Dec 20, 2006 09:05 PM

                                                                      Man, I wish people thought more like you. I had an 87 year old man swing a cane at one of my colleagues because he seized his sausage. Other times, people flipantly say "Oh, must be lunch time..enjoy it." Like I said, it is ludicrous...if you could only smell our meat bins before they went to the incinerator, you would never eat some of that stuff again.
                                                                      I think what raises the ire of a lot of folks is being straight up lied to and then acting like it is no big deal when they are caught. "Oh yeah, it's just an orange...you can take it." Then when we look at the orange and it has citrus canker on it from some god knows where country and the passenger is going to Florida. Well, it is a big deal then.
                                                                      It is even hard to regulate some things as an officer because the rules change so much. With Avian influenza, we have to break up painted eggs from some European countries...now that causes a lot of angst. A year ago...they could come in fine. Now...they go to the incinerator.

                                                                      1. re: TheMan
                                                                        Zabalburu RE: TheMan Dec 21, 2006 12:28 AM

                                                                        Great stories and very funny, although probably not funny when it happened to you. I'm glad we can disagree and be civil about it. I do think what you do is very important and clearly overall beneficial. I'm just still not 100 percent convinced yet that a bit of cured ham is hurting anybody but the pig it came from.

                                                                  3. Sam Fujisaka RE: mangiabeve Dec 20, 2006 03:59 AM

                                                                    I love your heartfelt response. You should be a writer in addition to an ag inspector! My "problem" is a bit different. Since I don't live in the US, my "smuggling" attempts are from anywhere in the world to where I live--Colombia. Your counterparts here are neither well educated nor polite--as I'm sure you are.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                      TheMan RE: Sam Fujisaka Dec 20, 2006 09:08 PM

                                                                      Thanks. In my world travels, I too have met some Customs folks and we are gentle folk compared to some of them. That also makes our jobs hard because we get folks from some 3rd world places who don't tell us anything. Where it gets tricky is the currency issue...if you bring over $10K in currency you need to tell us and then fill a form out. A lot of people don't do that and risk losing it all. We understand that some customs people in other countries will just take it so that is why we get translators over and explain the process in very simple terms in order for the rules to be followed and to avoid a currency seizure.

                                                                    2. s
                                                                      snaxattax RE: mangiabeve Dec 20, 2006 04:14 AM

                                                                      take your meat and bring it to a restaurant- nearly all own a eurosealer and ask if they can shrinkwrap it.. if not,
                                                                      travel with zip bags and pack in three bags. fourth bag contains lavendar sashe and by the way wont at all affect your meat. Never pack in carryon- checkit.

                                                                      Alternative is settling for the deli goodies at nearly all the internatioanl airports in Italy. Better selection at Linate than at Malpensa.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: snaxattax
                                                                        TheMan RE: snaxattax Dec 20, 2006 09:12 PM

                                                                        yeah, those bags are xray proof too, huh?

                                                                        carry on bags, check bags, makes no difference. If you come through the line for inspection with some meat, it's going to light our Xray up like a christmas tree and you'll be having a little sit down unles you declared it.

                                                                        oh, and if you think those bags that are lead lined will do the trick, we OPEN all of those that we get.

                                                                        Finally, if you try to conceal or truly "smuggle" the fines are much steeper and it is just not worth it.

                                                                        1. re: TheMan
                                                                          Das Ubergeek RE: TheMan Dec 20, 2006 11:09 PM

                                                                          OK... a question, then.

                                                                          I totally get that you don't make the rules, you just enforce them -- my father was DOJ/INS at EWR for years and years and used to get the first wave of the "hate the government" hostility from everybody.

                                                                          So here's my question. The form has the checkboxes. I check them off honestly -- no, really, I do declare every damn little seed on the bagel I bought in Vancouver airport or whatever. Then I get to LAX. When I get to LAX, the CBP officer who processes me in scribbles on the form, I go on my way, collect my baggage, and somebody else in CBP yanks the form out of my hand as I walk toward the channels.

                                                                          I've seen the ag desk right in front of me -- but the one time I wanted to ask if I could bring something in (it was a bunch of dried shrimp from Hong Kong), all I got from the CBP officer was, "KEEP MOVING! You're blocking the line, let's go!"

                                                                          So I brought it in. This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME I come back from abroad, whether I fly into TBI or one of the 'domestic' terminals. I just get impatiently waved down to the channels. There's no place to declare anything (there's not green and red channels like in every other country in the world).

                                                                          So, where is this inspection taking place? If I have questions, where do I ask? I get the feeling I'm asking too late, like I should ask the passport control officer who takes the first shufti at my declaration form.

                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                            TheMan RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 21, 2006 12:37 AM

                                                                            yeah, the whole line is an assembly process, isn't it? Go to immigration, get a stamp, go get your bags, go to customs, go to another line. Ugh. Not something one would enjoy after sitting on a plane for 12 hours next to someone who bathed two months ago. I understand.

                                                                            CBP makes it almost impossible to get a question answered because we are so busy trying to keep the lines moving and get people out of the area. Well, if you mark yes on your form for food or seeds or whatever, you will get sent to ag...more than likely. there, you wait in another line and then get up to a specialist who will ask you the questions. That will probably be your best bet to get a question answered. Unless you want to post it here and either me or Upslims can answer it for you.

                                                                            Yeah, there are a lot of things wrong with the system, but I am a small cog in the huge wheel that is the US govt. If you think it is a pain to deal with them, try working for them. They handle my personnel issues with the alacrity that they handle your questions or problems.

                                                                            Although, 99% of the people I work with will, if a person is genuine and pleasant, answer any question they have or direct them to someone who can.

                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                              upslims RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 21, 2006 12:45 AM

                                                                              Im sorry you've been having miserable experiences going through Customs. A lot of the officers are disgruntled and treat people horribly (depends on the day with me). Anyway, Im sure LAX is a very busy place, not sure where TBI is. Always check yes for food if you have any and just specify exactly what you have on the front or back. If you really want to get to agriculture declare meat (even if you dont have any) and that will get you to the inspection table. Then you can ask all the questions you want.

                                                                              I wouldnt ask the passport control officer because they're fluent in immigration law and thats about it. Pretty much anykind of seafood is OK, like the man said in this post seahorses and live fish will give you problems.

                                                                              1. re: upslims
                                                                                Das Ubergeek RE: upslims Dec 21, 2006 03:24 PM

                                                                                Thanks for your answers... TBI, by the way, is the Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX -- where most of the international carriers fly into -- the big American carriers fly into their own terminals and there's CBP facilities in something like 6 of the 9 terminals.

                                                                                I'm not complaining about not having to give up things -- only that it seems like there's not a lot of consistency about actually getting sent to ag -- and honestly, before I knew it was illegal, I too brought back sausages from Switzerland -- wrote it on the list, never saw anybody, it came home with me. That was 20 years ago, though. I don't think I'd bring it home now even if I were allowed to -- who wants all their clothes to smell like prosciutto?

                                                                                The only time I was ever truly pissed off was the time I saw the customs forms-takers behaving pleasantly (if silently) to the people coming off the U.S. citizens' line and abominably rudely to the people coming off the foreigners' line ("yes, you, I know you're too stupid to speak English, but keep going, get your fat butt moving, no, don't stop, you idiots").

                                                                                I got his name and called the port director at LAX on that one... he was standing right under those signs about how CBP are the face of our country and they pledge to treat people courteously.

                                                                                I imagine that the ag inspectors get the worst of it, especially in California and Hawaii where there are state rules as well as the federal rules -- nothing like being abused for an eight-hour shift, and my father used to come home with stories from his colleagues about how the Polish women would come off the LOT flights with sausages wrapped around their, er, pudenda, people who would try to bribe them to keep their food (because that's just how it works in some places), the woman who tried to strangle the customs officer because he wouldn't admit her Hefty sack full of rotten fish, replete with maggots, that were some other culture's cure for a barren womb (and that's why the uniform includes a snap-on tie).

                                                                                I don't like some of the rules -- it's retarded to me that I can't bring in raw-milk cheese, but the people who enforce it aren't the people who can make exception -- not much discretion there.

                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                  upslims RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 23, 2006 01:23 AM

                                                                                  What kind of cheese do you want to bring in? Milk is a different story but you can pretty much bring any cheese you want. The only exception is soft cheeses (brei/cottage cheese) but anything harder will be ok. And it doesn't need to be plastic wrapped. Hope this cleared things up.

                                                                                  1. re: upslims
                                                                                    Das Ubergeek RE: upslims Dec 28, 2006 04:46 PM

                                                                                    It must be port policy in New York and Los Angeles, then, because I tried twice to bring back some camembert from my uncle's farmhouse and it was seized.

                                                                        2. Josh RE: mangiabeve Dec 20, 2006 02:59 PM

                                                                          There is a domestic alternative:


                                                                          A Seattle friend tells me their stuff is to die for.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Josh
                                                                            mcgeary RE: Josh Dec 20, 2006 06:13 PM

                                                                            That's the place founded and owned by Mario Batali's father, and I too have heard that their products are amazing.

                                                                            1. re: mcgeary
                                                                              ExercisetoEat RE: mcgeary Dec 21, 2006 04:06 PM

                                                                              I've had the good fortune of eating here, and it is amazing. A NY Times article about the restaurant claimed that Salumi's is one of about half a dozen places in the U.S. making cured meats according to the traditional old world methods (with just enough stainless steel equipment to be legal around here).

                                                                          2. u
                                                                            upslims RE: mangiabeve Dec 20, 2006 08:30 PM

                                                                            Here is a quote from Zabalburu..

                                                                            "I've been lucky enough to not be caught sneaking in ham and chorizo. Oftentimes there's only one beagle for about 10 carousels, so you can wait for him/her to go by before you take your suitcase down."

                                                                            He is a smuggler.

                                                                            There isn't some government conspiracy against the sausage industry of the world. The prohibition is not a "blanket" prohibition. The enterability of meat depends on the disease status of the countries of the world. Most countries have or had BSE (and yes the U.S. also) and FMD. So that plays a factor in its enterability. So does how it is labeled and how it is packed. Vacuum packing does nothing but seals in disease. You can basically only bring salami/sausage from Iceland, Greenland, Fiji, Guam, US Territories, Australia and New Zealand.

                                                                            I agree that the risk of a herd of livestock contracting some disease from a sausage is extremely low. However it does pose a threat. The American agriculture is our only export that earns a profit, go ahead and see what happens if it hits the wall. And a prohibition on alcohol is uncomparable to a prohibition/restriction on meats.

                                                                            And please, like TheMan said, stop accusing us of eating the meats we seize.

                                                                            1. z
                                                                              Zabalburu RE: mangiabeve Dec 20, 2006 11:53 PM

                                                                              Hey, I never denied being a smuggler; I said I didn't consider that term an insult!

                                                                              I appreciate the information though. It looks like the USDA has just expanded their website, and I'm curious to check it out. Until recently it simply said that you couldn't bring in any meat product into the U.S. (MakingSense had the link, but that doesn't work any more) and didn't provide much specific information on why not. Like I said to MakingSense, this discussion has convinced me to study closely the dangers to agriculture (and risk to my financial wellbeing) before I smuggle again.

                                                                              I don't think there is any big conspiracy, only that it saves the USDA a lot of time and effort to be overly cautious on what I personally can bring in (what I mean by blanket prohibition), and that commercial import policies that determine what I can buy in the store are going to be influenced disproportionately by large established companies that are already importing or exporting rather than the interests of Joe citizen.

                                                                              I compare it to prohibition on alcohol only to illustrate that just because something is fine-able doesn't in of itself make it wrong. There are also plenty of reasons to ban alcohol too, but eventually we decided not to.

                                                                              Sorry people accuse you of eating what you seize! I'm sure people are total jerks to you folks, but I think you are just doing your job.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Zabalburu
                                                                                TheMan RE: Zabalburu Dec 21, 2006 12:43 AM

                                                                                Man, I sometimes also think that the whole thing is all political. Some of the countries we ban items from would be considered "non-friendlies" to the US govt. whereas the same item from another country who we currently like is "good to go". Now, this isn't always the case as in meat from England who had that Foot and Mouth Scare not too long ago. So, my thoughts may not be gospel. Still, who knows the answer to this conundrum. Some folks will say no on their forms and slip through with 80 lbs of sausage from Romania. Some will say no and get sent to Agriculture and end up not declaring it; they will lose their sausage and 300 bucks. It is all in the day's work.
                                                                                One thing is true though: if you declare all food items you have, then you will not be fined. You may lose your sausage, but keep your processed nuts. ;-). Those are the rules...as of now.

                                                                                1. re: TheMan
                                                                                  cheesemonger RE: TheMan Dec 21, 2006 06:18 PM

                                                                                  I agree with The Man about the politics. Remember when France wouldn't back us in Iraq- surprise! no more french pate imports until they were deemed "safe enough".
                                                                                  The Federal Bioterrorism Act regarding food imports is a HUGE document, and is a post 9/11 deal, so the argument that "I used to be able to bring this in" is correct- emphasis on "used to".. Many importers have attorneys that do nothing but navigate those waters.

                                                                                  And yes, Spanish chorizo (Palacios brand) is available here, but that doesn't mean that individuals can tote it in, it must be legally imported. Why is this so confusing to some of you?

                                                                                  And you guys on the front line- thanks.

                                                                              2. JoanN RE: mangiabeve Dec 21, 2006 04:17 PM

                                                                                I always declare food I bring back through JFK from overseas, I'm always sent to the AG guys, and they are invariably charming and polite. A month or so ago, coming back from Mexico, I filled in the form indicating I had food with me. The AG guy asked me what I had and I told him. Among the list was hot sauce. We got into a conversation about what kind of hot sauces each of us like and what was so great about the one from Mexico. He was seriously interested in finding new ones. He thanked me for being honest and sent me on my way without asking to look at anything. In my experience, if you're charming to them, they're charming back. They're just doing their job and they don't like confrontation any better than you do.

                                                                                1. mangiabeve RE: mangiabeve Dec 21, 2006 09:01 PM

                                                                                  Wow , I had no idea my post would stir up the kettle so much... thanks for all the facts, opinions & ideas.

                                                                                  1. m
                                                                                    meels RE: mangiabeve Dec 22, 2006 12:51 PM

                                                                                    there was a (shorter) thread like this on the Italy board... everyone (some grudgingly) came to the conclusion that maybe there are just some "local" foods that have to stay "local." Isn't that sorta what chowing(/slowfood/etc) is about?

                                                                                    1. p
                                                                                      perigord lover RE: mangiabeve Dec 25, 2006 11:02 PM

                                                                                      Fascinating fodder, this thread. I've heard all kinds of tales about great Ag inspectors, and some not-so-knowledgeable ones as well. My biggest questions have to do with foie gras (and secondarily, pâtés) and fresh truffles. I run a B&B in southwest France, and my American guests are always asking me about the legality of bringing pure foie gras back to the States. Is it prohibited? Is there a difference between the foie gras in cans and the foie gras in jars? Does it matter if it's from a factory vs. a small producer (farm)?
                                                                                      The other big question has to do with fresh truffles. My French friend is coming to California this winter and wants to know if he can bring a few truffles with him. These are collected by him, and he'll probably just bring them in a jar or a plastic or paper bag.
                                                                                      Can you kind and knowledgeable inspectors give me the low-down on truffles and foie gras? Someone once told me that foie gras is OK because it's not really a meat, it's an organ, but I think that's a pretty thin argument. And what about pâté (which usually contains pork meat)?

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: perigord lover
                                                                                        TheMan RE: perigord lover Dec 26, 2006 05:13 AM

                                                                                        truffles-make sure there is no soil. call the cbp port you are going into and double check. truffles are expensive and you'd hate to have them seized. in my port they are inspect and release as I am sure that is the standard across the board. however, they are not too common and if you go to a port that doesn't have much exposure you may run into a lot of questions. i had one come through once, free of soil, have a nice trip. foie gras is okay and is pate...just no ruminant (deer or cow for example).
                                                                                        since you run a restaurant, if you bring in commercial items that you will resell at your business, than it must be declared as a commercial good and will be subject to duty. if you want to bring it back for your own pleasure, than it needs to only be declared as a food item.

                                                                                      2. p
                                                                                        perigord lover RE: mangiabeve Dec 26, 2006 07:07 AM

                                                                                        Thanks...but I know people who declared their canned foie gras last year (at SFO) and had it confiscated. The inspector or agent told them they couldn't bring it because of avian flu. Another friend brought truffles in through Chicago, several years ago, and the agent didn't know what they were and confiscated them,. When my friend tried to explain they were a type of mushroom, the agent just said "No, no mushrooms." The truffles were packed in goose fat, in sealed jars.
                                                                                        It's just so darned inconsistent and unpredictable, particularly frustrating when these foods are so precious, expensive and relatively unavailable in this country.

                                                                                        1. t
                                                                                          TheMan RE: mangiabeve Dec 27, 2006 08:28 AM

                                                                                          Well, maybe it wasn't they said and they just lied to you, or maybe the inspector made a mistake. I wouldn't doubt either one at this stage of the game.

                                                                                          The audacity of some people and the lack of integrity is amazing. I, and my colleagues, will ask a person, DO YOU HAVE ANY FOOD? HOW ABOUT ANY FRUIT, SEEDS, PLANTS, VEGETABLES, MEAT, OR MEAT PRODUCTS? HOW ABOUT ANYTHING MADE FROM A BIRD, SWINE, OR COW? The passenger says "NO!" They get referred. I walk back to the inspection station. Open their bag, pull out apples, mangos, sausage, fatback, all kinds of stuff. I ask them "Do you remember me, I asked you about the food?"

                                                                                          They say: "Well it is vacummed packed!" Or, "Oh, I forgot!"
                                                                                          Yeah, they say "I forgot" as I pull the sausage from their purse where their declaration and passport is in the way of the documents they used to clear the first line before they even spoke to me. Or, "did you read this book on the plane?" The passenger says "of course I did, it is a bestseller...I am sure you never heard of it!" We then say "well, did you happen to see the giant orange right next to it? Why didn't you declare it?" "Uhhh, well, no...I didn't know it was there."

                                                                                          Come on! You had a chance to write it down. You didn't. You had a chance to orally declare when I asked you. You didn't. Now, you try and rationalize what you did was wrong was actually right?

                                                                                          The whole job sours you on humanity. It really does. The amount of lies that spews forth is amazing.

                                                                                          Top six:

                                                                                          Oh, my mom packed my bags, she must have slipped it in (try that with herorin, that will get you far).

                                                                                          Oh, it is for the baby.

                                                                                          Oh, well it is only an orange (FULL OF CANKER!)!

                                                                                          It is vacummed packed so I didn't declare it.

                                                                                          It isn't meat, it is sausage.

                                                                                          I just didn't want to be inspected for something so trivial.

                                                                                          You know, I understand the language barrier. I understand that you are tired and it is a long flight and you got another one to catch in 10 minutes. But, to straight up lie and then laugh and say "oh well, you can take it." is an insult. For god sakes, we now have the ability to not only seize your entire luggage for not declaring items, but to also bar you from entry into the US and send you back to the country you came from...even if you ARE a US Citizen! Why give us "permission" to seize an illegal item?

                                                                                          The best is when they say "I am sure you are hungry, go ahead and enjoy it." That is tantamount to telling a state trooper who stopped you for speeding "wow, you must be soooo bored to have stopped me for speeding 85 in a 25 mph school zone, but go ahead... have your fun with your little power trip...go ahead...you can do it."

                                                                                          UGH! you can see what kind of reaction that could get you.

                                                                                          Anyway, just declare your food.

                                                                                          The last list I want to leave you with:

                                                                                          What amazes so many people about us:
                                                                                          A lot of inspectors are educated to at least a BSc. A lot have waited 3 years in a long line to get the job. We care about what happens to the ag industry of the US. We make about $65K a year while doing a 40 hour work week. We are not idiots. We give you every chance to amend.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: TheMan
                                                                                            ah123 RE: TheMan Dec 28, 2006 12:18 AM

                                                                                            I've had the same experience.

                                                                                            My mantra from now on is: DO NOT DECLARE ANYTHING AND HIDE IT AS WELL AS POSSIBLE.

                                                                                            You risk confiscation but so be it. But of course I am not bringing back stinky cheese, leaky containers, raw meats, or farm products.

                                                                                            Vacuum packed foods should be best because they are not odourous and should be capable of being hidden among layers of dirty laundry.

                                                                                            If you want bulkier items, consider investing in DHL-ing it back home. Throw a book in there and declare it as non-food gift.

                                                                                            As much as I don't like lying to customs, I feel I should not be categorically stopped from bringing back something I will consume myself. I've had vacuum packed meats bought at Duty Free shops in international terminals in Italy taken by custom when I have expressly asked the clerk whether I can take it back.

                                                                                            1. re: ah123
                                                                                              TheMan RE: ah123 Jan 18, 2007 03:13 AM

                                                                                              clerks will tell you what they want to make a sale. If you don't declare and try to hide it, you risk a bigger fine ($1000). Your statement "I feel I should not be categorically stopped from bringing back something I will consume myself. " makes you sound like you don't care for the law at all. Or, only the ones you want to follow because you believe in them.
                                                                                              Some folks will eat the entire sausage they bring into the US. Some will have a little left over that they can't eat so they dump it into the garbage. Know where your garbage goes? Really know where it goes? Some garbage sometimes ends up in the mouths of swine and that is the risk. Risk is 1 in a mil, but people play the lottery all the time with higher odds than that and they sometimes win. Swine fever in the US would be a bad day. Very bad day indeed.

                                                                                          2. f
                                                                                            FAL RE: mangiabeve Dec 28, 2006 07:41 PM

                                                                                            Ship it to your house . Before you leave italy. Fed ex or Ups.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: FAL
                                                                                              Das Ubergeek RE: FAL Dec 28, 2006 08:33 PM

                                                                                              It still gets inspected upon arrival in the U.S.

                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                BeagleHandler RE: Das Ubergeek Mar 22, 2007 01:25 AM

                                                                                                Quit being selfish. It's all fun and games until something goes wrong and affects your grocery bill. Protect American Agriculture & the American farmer and leave the contraband behind. Nothing is more embarassing than getting busted by a Beagle, and I will get you.

                                                                                              2. re: FAL
                                                                                                SavoryBrown RE: FAL Dec 17, 2009 09:48 AM

                                                                                                If you 'meat' with a producer of a good in that country, they are usually more than willing to ship goods to you. Get an email address and order what you want when you want it. Alternately if you speak the language it's not too difficult to find a producer on the internet. As far as inspection goes, it would appear that the cured sausage, lardo, and absinthe has gotten through with no problem.

                                                                                              3. b
                                                                                                bunnios RE: mangiabeve Dec 5, 2007 01:07 AM

                                                                                                Does anyone know if I can bring dried black fungus from China into the USA? I believe I can bring dried mushrooms in. What about ground up reishi mushroom pollen - it's the latest health fad. I wish I don't have to bring any of it back, but it's all gifts for my mom from relatives. And of course, I need to declare them under Agricultural products, right?
                                                                                                Thanks so much. Happy Holidays.

                                                                                                1. erica RE: mangiabeve May 12, 2009 09:27 AM

                                                                                                  I am bringing this up again because of its relevance to several recent questions.

                                                                                                  Has anything changed regarding bringing meats from Italy and Spain?

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: erica
                                                                                                    Ruth Lafler RE: erica May 13, 2009 11:44 PM

                                                                                                    No. You should go straight to the source: US Customs has a website with all the info. Making Sense had some good advice upthread about carrying print outs of the relevant regulations in case there's a question when you get to customs. Other people had some good points about not risking billions of dollars in agriculture so you can have your contraband treat.

                                                                                                    1. re: erica
                                                                                                      butterfly RE: erica May 14, 2009 10:02 AM

                                                                                                      About Spain... if you are talking about ham, then you could only bring back the producers whose process has been approved by the USDA (Fermín, Monte Nevado...). I don't think I've ever seen that ham for sale here in Spain (the reason being that it is much more expensive than the regular Spanish products of similar or much better quality). You can find the Palacios and Campofrío brand chorizo that gets sold in the US... it's not the top-notch stuff, but it is much cheaper in Spain.

                                                                                                      1. re: butterfly
                                                                                                        Ruth Lafler RE: butterfly May 14, 2009 01:53 PM

                                                                                                        I don't believe so. The Customs site says *no* meat products, not "only approved meat products." I think the USDA certification allows commercial importers to bring those products into the US, but not individuals.

                                                                                                        As I said, when it comes to legal matters, people should get their info directly from US customs, not randomly from people on the internet.

                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                          butterfly RE: Ruth Lafler May 14, 2009 03:37 PM

                                                                                                          That's not the case. You are allowed to bring meat products into the US. The meat products that you are allowed to bring in varies wildly by country. The US restricts pork, in particular, from Spain, but many other meat products are allowed. The rules are eternally shifting depending on perceived threats to livestock and it is a good idea to get the info directly from APHIS. My point about the relatively recent changes in pork importation is that nearly all widely available cured pork products in Spain do not meet the US conditions for import at all--and the ones that are imported to the US aren't the good stuff (by Spanish standards)--so it's really not worth it.

                                                                                                    2. a
                                                                                                      aysen RE: mangiabeve Apr 11, 2010 08:00 PM

                                                                                                      I have a question about custom. i read that you say sugar isn't allowed. i wonder why?
                                                                                                      is jam, turkish delight or honey, molasses allowed?
                                                                                                      If items we carry are allowed why do we need to declare?
                                                                                                      is dried apricot or fig from turkey allowed?

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: aysen
                                                                                                        carolinadawg RE: aysen Apr 12, 2010 03:54 AM

                                                                                                        From the Customs and Border Patrol website:

                                                                                                        "As a general rule, condiments, vinegars, oils, packaged spices, honey, coffee and tea are admissible."

                                                                                                        If you want to research it throughly, this publication is a good start: http://asp.uibk.ac.at/asp/usdatips.pdf

                                                                                                        1. re: carolinadawg
                                                                                                          Das Ubergeek RE: carolinadawg Apr 12, 2010 09:43 AM

                                                                                                          Why would you point someone to an Austrian site?

                                                                                                          To aysen, you must declare everything you bring back, allowed or not, mostly to make sure you didn't bring back more than your duty-free allowance.

                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                            carolinadawg RE: Das Ubergeek Apr 12, 2010 10:46 AM

                                                                                                            Don't have any idea what you're talking about...the link is for the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Program Aid 1083, Travelers’ Tips On Bringing Food, Plant, and Animal Products Into the United States. If you have something better, please post it. Thanks.

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