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I am a US customs and border protection agriculture specialist and posted a few responses to some questions that folks had about importing meats on another string. Anyway, I just wanted to ask if anyone had questions about bringing food into the US. Or, if people had any questions about the whole customs experience in general. Now, of course, there are sensitive issues that I can't talk about for obvious reasons, but I am always amazed at how little people know about what food items are actually allowed or not allowed. I feel bad when folks come back from Europe and say, for example, "well, i wish i could have brought back some of my dad's cheese that he makes for my grandson." well, you can bring back cheese. anyway, post a comment/question and I'll address it if you want. If not, this string will die a silent death.

  1. I'll take you up on it:

    You say we can bring back cheese. Any caveats to that? I told my sister to bring me back some gouda from Holland this weekend. I assume that's fine, right?

    1 Reply
    1. re: themicah

      yeah, a hard cheese is good to go. although, if it is wet and dripping with ooze...you may have some problems. Other than that, you can bring boatloads back. As long as it is not for commercial sale...than you may have to pay duty if it is A TON of cheese and over $800 of commercial value.

    2. You're TheMan for this one! (please post in Italy board)


      1. Please tell me why I can't bring a Florida Orange through US customs, on a flight from Toronto to Denver. The orange CAME FROM THE US!!!!! My plan is to eat it on the plane.

        3 Replies
        1. re: thenurse

          If the orange has a sticker on it from the US, it is good to go. If it doesn't have a sticker, there is no way we can know it came from the US. That is our port policy at the current time. Other places can care less about the sticker...they regulate the fruit, not the origin. Canada, doesn't have a citrus industry, so they get a lot of their fruit from central america, south america, and yes...the USA. However, citrus is HIGHLY regulated because of citrus canker (or other diseases) so anytime we see a fruit...even dried peels...we seize and destroy it. Better to eat the orange on the plane before leaving it than getting it seized.
          A footnote- they tell us that citrus canker, the latest variant to hit florida at least, came from a group of visitors from south america who owned a citrus grove in their backyard back home. They went to visit a friend in Miami who had some lime trees in his backyard and well, either the fruits they brought and had a picnic with or the clothes they wore had the bacteria on it and the disease was spread from there. Now, whenever there is an outbreak, all trees within many acres of that infected tree have to be incinerated. Not a good thing if you are a grower in a citrus industry.

          1. re: TheMan

            Just an immigration note here -- all large Canadian airports with flights to the US (with the exception of Halifax, I think) now do preclearance, so thenurse would have to go through US customs in Toronto, hence the problem -- she can't even eat it on the plane.

            1. re: TheMan

              Once a US fruit leaves our country it is treated as a fruit from the country it is returning from because it could have been exposed to numerous plant pests while it was gone.

          2. Okeedokee. Here's, ahem, a hypothetical list of stuff that some people I know (but NEVER me, of course) bring from Iran. TheMan, I love your moniker, but I'll admit that I'm a bit paranoid about posting on this thread :)

            roasted pistachio nuts (creamy fresh nuts, salt and lemon like you wouldn't believe. nothing here compares)
            roasted pumpkin seeds
            frozen chopped fried herbs (for the universal iranian favorite food, ghormeh sabzi, a lush lamb herb stew with fenugreek, garlic chives, parsley, and dried limes. not only are some of these herbs tough to find here, but there's also an enormous flavor and fragrance difference)
            dried sour cherries and other dried fruit

            we've, i mean they've never declared anything, and have been lucky. but i'd love to know what if any of this stuff is actually okay to bring in.

            8 Replies
            1. re: rose water

              You don't have to be paranoid about me. I am just really interested in what the general populace believes about what they can or can't bring. I think there is a great disconnect between what people think they know about customs and what is the reality. Maybe if they had a clue, than folks would be able to enjoy the things that are really important to them. I mean, food is such an important link to a person's persona...right?

              Let's see...Iran...

              If a nut or seed is processed and for food, than it is okay. So the roasted nuts should be good to enter. The roasted pumpkin seed, however, is a curcurbit seed and is subject to Kapra beetles...but I think without looking at a manual that it is okay from Iran. I know some countries are regulated for that seed so it may not be okay unless it is grounded (Nigeria for example with the egousi seed), but I'll check (we have a matrix for curcurbit seeds in plain view because they are so common.) the chopped and fried frozen herbs should be enterable as they have been cooked. No lamb though...it is a ruminant...but you didn't say lamb was coming in. dried cherries and dried fruit are okay also.

              zereshk, or barberry, is often seized from Iran because of certain pests/diseases that it is associated with. although, i do not think it carries a risk, I still have to seize it. That is a common item from Iran that is seized. I have a question to you. Do you know about zereshk? Is it expensive or hard to find in the US? Folks are sometimes really upset when we toss the zereshk in the bin. It won't change the way we operate, but I want to be able to know what it means to someone when we do this. I mean, if you can buy it here for a buck a pound, than no big deal and I'll explain that it has a pest risk and inspection is over. However, if it is $100 a bag, I want to really take the time and explain the whole reasoning behind our actions.

              For my port, folks from Iran also often bring citrus over...like lemons and limes...so that is the main focus. at least for us. Oh, and also plants. Live plants. For some reason, people from Iran often bring these plants that they want to plant in their backyards. We don't want any invasive plant species in the US, so we seize those as well.

              It also comes down to pests. Sometimes, we get nuts that would be enterable, but have insects crawling in the bags. So, we have to seize it. That is a no-brainer and trumps anything that is "enterable" or "non-enterable" as well.

              1. re: TheMan

                Wow. Thanks so much. That's very helpful.

                Zereshk (small red super sour barberries) can be found in the US, in Iranian grocery stores. Trouble is that Iranian stores are few and far between, and the quality is not as good, and it is expensive. I never use zereshk, so I can't estimate the price, but I'd guess it's under your $100/bag figure.

                I'm guessing from what you say that dried limes are a no-go?

                Okay, back to the herbs--you said if they were cooked they'd be okay. But how would we prove that, if, as you say fresh herbs are subject to seizure? Really, you can't get herbs like that here, especially picked and washed and chopped fried by loving aunts over many days. Sigh.

                Thanks again.

                1. re: rose water

                  usually chopped or fine grated herbs are enterable. Better yet, if they are shredded then they are usually enterable. To be safe, shredded and dried are always enterable...unless they have bugs.

                  Dried limes are citrus and are thus seized. No canker allowed in the USA.

                2. re: TheMan

                  Cucurbit seeds are not allowed from Iran. Only Jordan, Kuwait, & Lebanon as far as the middle east goes

                3. re: rose water

                  Oh, I forgot about saffron. If it is dried, than no port should seize it. A wet or fresh herb is subject to being seized. Also, if there are insects on it, then it is as good as gone.

                  In the end, if you have an item that is taken that you don't think should be seized, ask to see the manual where it says that item should be taken. If they don't, ask to speak to a supervisor. CBP is really good about that, and, believe you me, you will talk to a supervisor. Honestly, we don't have to show you the citation in the manual, but if anyone ever asked me, I would walk them through the whole thought process just to ensure that we don't come off as some random loose cannon organization, because that is not what we are. If a person doesn't speak English, have them ask for a translator.
                  In the end though, if an officer makes a decision, than reversing that is going to be pretty hard.

                  The whole process of moving through the line is so incredibly fast. However, it will be (or should be at least in my mind) slowed for people who want a thorough explanation.

                  Now, if you have a sausage or a whole fruit and do this, it is a no brainer and you will be fast tracked. Those items are not enterable under any circumstance. However, some things like zereshk do warrant a little more explaining.

                  1. re: TheMan

                    Zereshk is not expensive in Los Angeles. Btw, I am very impressed that you knew what zereshk was! Very few iranians i know, know that it's a barberry. The only reason I know that is from cookbooks! I've never seen/heard of a barberry in my life (i'm from LA)

                    1. re: amandine

                      we seized some today and the woman said "but, that is so expensive." We often hear that so it just piqued my interest. thanks.

                      1. re: TheMan

                        I just bought some at an Iranian grocery store here in Los Angeles. It comes out to about $9 a pound. A pound is a hell of a lot of dried barberries.

                4. Here are potentially some items I MIGHT bring back from my next trip to London: chocolates, cookies, booze, bread, potato chips, tea, coffee, butter, containers of clotted cream from Sainsbury's (not the jarred kind but the ones that look like they are in plastic cole slaw containers). Will any of these items get me in trouble?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Velma


                    Our big problem with England are the canned beans and franks from Heinz. The franks are the rub for us. I saw the canned beans in a grocer not too long ago here in the states. You can't find the franks variant though...I had a woman cry when I took them not too long ago. She said her husband craved them so badly. Yet, it was a sausage from Europe so in the bin it went.

                    Your list:
                    chocolates, okay.
                    cookies, you are fine.
                    booze, depends on the amount and proof. If they are high proof and you have liters of it, you may have to pay a duty. Now, two fifths are okay (generally). If you bring more, than the duty is nominal (not more than a couple of bucks a liter...if that)
                    bread, Good to go.
                    potato chips, bring all you want.
                    tea, good to go!
                    coffee, Oh yeah, can't get enough...bring it all (under a commercial amount that you will sell.)
                    butter, that is okay too!
                    containers of clotted cream from Sainsbury's, ugh, now cream, with foot and mouth in England...may be a problem in some ports. Does it have sugar in it? Is it in a can? That is the item that may cause a pause in the inspection. If it has sugar, it would probably be seized. If not, than it would be subject to being seized. If you give me more details, I will be better informed to give you a regulatory decision. Any knowledge of sugar content, animal origin (i presume cow). You said a plastic container...ugh, not hermetically sealed. That is a big thing with CBP. If it is in a shelf stable container, than it falls into a different category.
                    Hmm. that is a tough one. Something that will probably fall into the realm of "officer discretion." that means, if an officer thinks it could be a risk...up to 0.000001% risk, it is seized.

                    1. re: TheMan

                      Hi! Why is butter OK but cream not?

                      1. re: mnosyne

                        I only enforce the rules, not make them. Somewhere, a USDA scientist determined that butter is okay, and cream not.

                      2. re: TheMan

                        I tried to provide a link but it didn't work. It is more like it is in a carton similar to Daisy sour cream. Definitely a dairy case product. Thanks for all your help!

                        Here is the on-line description greatly edited:


                        Free From Genetically Modified Ingredients

                        Contains cow's milk.

                        Country of Origin
                        UNITED KINGDOM


                        Keep refrigerated. May be frozen if whipped. To enjoy at its best consume within 3 days of opening. Do not exceed use by date.

                        Our products are constantly being improved. This may result in changes to the ingredient list and/or allergy advice from that stated on this site. For this reason, Sainsbury's is unable to accept liability for any incorrect information on this site.

                        You should always read the label before consuming the product and never rely solely on the information presented here.

                        If you require specific advice on any Sainsbury's own label product, please contact our Customer Careline on 0800 636262. For all other products please contact the manufacturer.

                        This data is supplied for your personal use only. It may not be reproduced in any way without the prior consent of Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd and due acknowledgement.

                        1. re: Velma

                          That item would probably be seized because it is not shelf stable and is coming from a country with cattle diseases not extant in the USA. Again, we only enforce the rules, not make them.

                        2. re: TheMan

                          canned beans and franks would be allowed from England as long as it is pork only. If any beef (ruminant) is included it would not be allowed because of BSE

                      3. Hi TheMan, just want to let you know that this is REALLY HELPFUL for people like me who travel a lot!

                        Well, I will go straight to my question:
                        How about ginseng (the dried ones), and tea leaves? Or the very expensive "bird nest"? Or dried plums? I always get mixed responses on these dried fruits or herbs or herbs or seasonings and I really want to know if I can bring them.

                        Thank you so much!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: kobetobiko

                          Ginseng. That is a hard one for us. Does it have soil on it? Sometimes, folks bring it over with clumps of soil and it has to be seized cause of nematodes. Also, it depends on the origin...what country does it come from? Otherwise, generally, it can be entered unless from a few countries in Asia. tea leaves, if they are dried, are enterable. Bird Nest...ugh!
                          Bird nest is seized now because of avaian influenza.
                          I have a great bird nest story.
                          I found a bag of bird's nests in a passenger's bags from China. I knew it was bird's nests. I took it and put it in the bin. The passenger went nuts! I felt awful. The bag didn't have an English translation, so I went down the line and found a guy in the line who spoke English and asked him what the bag said. He said "mushrooms". I then went back and almost gave it back to the passenger. However, being a good customs guy, I called for a translator which sometimes takes many minutes. Sure enough, we got a CBP translator over who was from China and she said "It says mushrooms on the bag, but it is a bag of bird's nests." So, we seized it. The guy was sad, and I had to escort him out of the area.

                          Many foods from Asia are often labled something enterable in English...like seafood. But are actually pork or something else NOT enterable. We know this and are carefull with trusting english on the package.

                          So, hate to say it. No bird nest soup(from what I was told it is used for.)

                          The whole avian influenza thing has limited virtually all types of bird items coming from Asia.

                          I feel bad because I know bird nest soup is an important part of some cultures, but those are the regs. :-(

                          Dried plums...as with all dried fruits...except citrus...are fine also.

                          1. re: TheMan

                            Hi TheMan, Thank you so much for giving us all the useful information! The ginseng that I was referring to was from Korea and they are usually sliced and boxed. Definitely no soil. I actually did not know that people will bring the entire ginseng fresh from the ground (and I guess that's how soil may come with it). Very interesting!

                            You mentioned that "Many foods from Asia are often labled something enterable in English...like seafood" Do you mean we can bring seafood in? Now I have more questions (sorry...) can we bring fresh (vacuum-sealed but not alive) seafood? How about dried ones (like dried shrimp and scallops. In our culture there are some snacks that have seafood in it. Is that allowed?

                            Once again, thank you so much! I really appreciate your time and kindness.

                            1. re: kobetobiko

                              Yeah, any seafood is okay. Kim Chee is also enterable.

                            2. re: TheMan

                              You may find this helpful: http://www.inu.org/meiwah/index.htm

                              It's essentially an English-speaker's guide to what might be contained in things. If you look for the radicals (魚 means fish, for example, and is contained in pretty much every word pertaining to fish or seafood) you can parse Chinese without having to speak it... another good one to look for is 肉, which means "meat" and usually "pork" -- 羊肉 is lamb and 牛肉 is beef.

                              1. re: TheMan

                                I've also got a question about ginseng... on our last trip from USA to Canada, we wanted to bring gifts to friends/family we were planning to visit. My mother ended up purchasing some dried ginseng from a store in SF Chinatown. The store clerk claimed it is American ginseng, but since the store was pretty much a hole-in-the-wall Mom & Pop deal, there were no papers. We got stopped upon arrival in Canada, and Customs there scrutinized the packages very carefully... labels were in Chinese. We explained that we had been told it was American, and the officer told us if it is American there ought to be certificates. Unfortunately, we did not know about certificates and were never given any. I guess the officer must have decided it was not American and allowed us to keep it.

                                I understand that sometimes the origins of dried ginseng bought in this manner might be difficult to verify. If we ever plan on bringing ginseng along again, I'd like to find out more about the regulations and what we can and cannot bring in.


                            3. I'm with kobetobiko; it's good of you to take the time. I'm wondering about bringing back wine from the Niagara area. Is the limit two bottles per person? What would be the duty for bottles over the allowed amount? Thanks again.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: yayadave

                                Wine is duty free. Just pack it well so that the handlers don't destroy it!

                                You can bring back as much wine as you are willing to carry or pay for per the airline. US CBP doesn't charge for wine, as long as it is for personal use and not for sale. Just declare it and, make sure it is in your checked baggage because TSA has a no liquid rule. I've seen many a seized bottle of fine wine on the table of TSA on my way to get lunch through the TSA lines.

                                I should add that with any liquids, we are always on the look out for liquid heroin...so anytime we get any liquids, we are on the up and up. TSA may look for liquid explosives, but we are all over drugs and are good at detecting them so that is why we look at all liquids so closely.

                                Hope this helps.

                                1. re: TheMan

                                  Wow, and here I thought the limit was 2 bottles. Great info!

                                  1. re: JoLi

                                    nah, wine falls under a different category. like i said though, as long as it isn't commercial (you will sell it in the states). personal use wine is fine. Now, I am not saying if you bring back 8 bottles that you won't get asked or referred for another inspection. But, I am saying that wine for personal consumption is not dutiable, as of now.

                                    Oh, and if the person is 21 also. we had a few under 21 folks come through with wine. The rules of the federal govt still apply. If you are under 21 and bring it over to the states, go back and drink it with your buddies and end up in a car accident, that is awful. For us to find it, say "now now, be careful" and let it go down the road is irresponsible for us.

                              2. TheMan, thank you for your concern re nematodes. We (as farmers when I was growing up in California) had major problems with certain nematodes; and I've worked on root-knot nematodes as a problem in upland rice in Asia. Your concern about "clumps of soil" are well warranted.

                                On the other hand, how many times do you see such clumps?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Daily. We get people who bring back plants a lot to put in their backyards. A lot of times they don't declare them, but they are easy to see on the xray. Especially with a big clump of soil on the root system. Also, people bring back soil as a momento. We give them the option of letting us cook it for 2 hours at 400 degrees and then mailing it to an address of their choice. That kills all the nasties in the soil and lets them have it.

                                2. I've heard conflicting rumors about absinthe--the real stuff, with wormwood. Can I legally bring that in?

                                  (And I join the other folks in saying, thanks for taking the time to share the inside scoop on Customs regs with us!)

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                                    Straight from the US Customs webpage:

                                    The importation of Absinthe and any other liquors or liqueurs that contain Artemisia absinthium is prohibited.


                                    It wouldn't surprise me much if the prohibition on absinthe importation changed in the future; modern science has revealed that that the purported wild effects of absinthe were due less to the thujone-containing wormwood, and more to it being a 136 proof liquor that people were darn near quaffing like Kool-Aid. You'll pass out from all the alcohol before you hit the hallucinogenic effects of the thujone.

                                    1. re: MsMaryMc

                                      The San Diego Union-Tribune had an article recently about the amount of Absinthe being confisgated at the Tijuana/San Diego port of entry (i.e. border crossing). There has been a substantial rise in the volume over the last year or so. It's widely available in liquor stores in Tijuana for prices ranging from a few dollars for the Mexican knock off to over $100 for the imported French stuff. A few of the liquor stores will tell customers it's illegal to cross with it, most don't. They must be confisgating a huge amount of it, tho, for a major metropolitan newspaper to devote a rather lengthy article to the subject........either that or it was a slow news day :-). In any event, it's not legal.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        Lots of the stuff is fake and just strong alcohol. However, it says it has the thurjone in it. Anytime you have a prohibited item, you will get a farm industry in another country that tries to make huge profits on the fact that a person is trying to get an "Exclusive" item. College kids love to bring back absinthe because they become king of the residence hall for having something "special" that cannot be found in the USA. It also has that mystique that it would create hallucinations. However, the amount of the wormwood isn't strong enough in many countries to cause it. Rather, it is the placebo effect and also very strong alcohol content that does it.

                                      2. re: MsMaryMc

                                        Try this link to a French distiller for information on Absinthe with a great deal of background on wormwood, historical detail, etc. http://www.absintheonline.com/
                                        They claim to ship the real thing to the US.
                                        Except for just wanting The Green Fairy itself, acceptable substitutes are Pastis and Herbsaint. The appropriate glassware and other paraphernalia are not hard to find in antique stores and some modern shops.

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          The ship it, but they can't guarantee that it will get through customs on the US side...

                                          1. re: butterfly

                                            You cannot mail alcohol as it is a postal regulation. All packages coming into the states are screened and the ones with bottles are opened and searched.

                                            1. re: TheMan

                                              Can you mail alcohol OUT of the U.S.? I know you can't necessarily speak to the customs regulations for other countries, but I was curious. My particular situation is just that I would really like to bring some particular wines and alcohol with me back to Switzerland, but if I can ship them instead of packing them in my luggage, that might be preferrable.

                                              It may seem completely incomprehensible, but it is nearly impossible to find Frangelico and Midori here in Switzerland. The Frangelico is the most ridiculous -- it's hazelnuts, for crying out loud, and the Swiss have hazelnut everything... except as an alcohol, apparently.

                                            2. re: butterfly

                                              I've seen at least one company (see http://www.feeverte.net/guide/vendors/ ) that says they'll ship it to you in the U.S. (not via the post office, presumably), and if it gets confiscated, they'll refund your payment. If that's true, they must be able to get enough of it through to still be making money. Their prices are pretty high to begin with, however!

                                              I brought some in from Europe a couple of years ago. I wasn't sure if it was legal or not, but I just wrote "liqueur" on the Customs declaration (hey, it wasn't a lie!) and they waved me through without a second look. It was lovely stuff--no hallucinations or other wild and weird effects, but the nicest, warmest buzz I've ever had from alcohol. I do wish it was easier to get here!

                                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                I wouldn't trust those guys, i mean, what recourse do you have? Unless maybe your credit card company would support you in that purchase. However, buying something illegal is hard to defend for a credit rebate.

                                                God, that would be a good gig. Just sit and open up checks and cash credit card numbers all day long. "Youre absinthe?" Must have been seized. Nothing I can do. Oh, yeah, I'll send a rebate to you soon.

                                          2. re: MsMaryMc

                                            Absinthe is seized and poured down the drain. It is a Food and Drug regulation.

                                          3. It is great of you to do this--thanks so much.

                                            A few questions...

                                            I live in Spain and would like to bring some gardening stuff for my mom the next time I visit her in the US:

                                            some plant seeds
                                            some flower bulbs

                                            I don't think the bulbs would have any dirt on them. If they did, would that change things? What are the policies about importing plants from Europe (Spain specifically)?


                                            P.S. The last time I was in Philly picking my bags up by the carousel, one of the dogs went nuts over my bag... We had to empty the whole thing out. We had a little roll of cookies, but nothing else. I wonder what he was picking up (maybe some traces of jamón iberico from a long-eaten sandwich?).

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: butterfly

                                              seeds and bulbs are seized. You can get some bulbs in amsterdam with a phytosanitary inspection certificate that allows them to enter the USA. The seal is distinctive with a hologram and they are widely available. For plants and seeds, you have to contact the spanish department of agriculture and arrange for a phytosanitary certificate to accompany the plants and seeds. This process is hard to get approved though and often time consuming.
                                              As far as the dogs, we have dogs for all sorts of items. Drugs, bombs, fruits. They are trained for a lot of different smells so who knows. It could be as simple as a fruit that was in the bag awhile ago and just giving off residual smell.

                                              1. re: TheMan

                                                Thanks for the info. I didn't realize that seeds and bulbs fell under the same rules as plants. I'll keep my eye out for those that are sold with the phytosanitary certificate--I didn't even know they existed--for the next time that I go.

                                            2. Hey Man,

                                              Why is ham such a no-no? On my way back from Barcelona recently, I bought delicious Iberico ham in the airport store and had them vacuum pack it for me. Bang! It was seized at JFK. The man just said it wasn't allowed.


                                              - Sean

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Sean Dell

                                                APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division of US Dept' of Ag) regulates the importation of swine meat products in general due to the risk of Swine Fever and Hoof-and-Mouth disease. In the case of Spain in particular, swine
                                                products are prohibited because (as of Dec. 2005) there are no USDA-certified slaughterhouses in Spain.

                                                1. re: Sean Dell

                                                  Usually swine fever or other diseases in Europe, but not in the states. They don't want the meat to enter the garbage stream and end up in a swine's mouth.

                                                2. Very interesting. But how, then, is Spanish jamon sold in specialist food markets in the US? Do they get special import licenses, case-by case?

                                                  - Sean

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sean Dell

                                                    Yes, there are just a handful of ham makers that have USDA approved processing plants in Spain--I'm talking about hams made from the regular white pig, not the iberian breed. That's why you only see two or three brands of Spanish jamón in the US--as opposed to the dozens of different kinds available in Spain. Even fewer producers of other cured meat products--chorizo, fuet, salchichón, lomo--can export to the US, mainly because these tend to be smaller, regional or co-op types of operations that wouldn't follow USDA rules. So, basically, what you can get there (in the US) is just the tip of the iceberg (or maybe the bottom of the barrel) of what is available here (Spain), but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

                                                    1. re: Sean Dell

                                                      Some plants have an arrangement with the USDA and are very regulated. They produce the meat from restricted farmers and follow procedures that are USDA approved. Also, some of the meats are smuggled in and would not be allowed. The USDA has a team that goes to various grocery stores to find this prohibited meat in many US cities.

                                                    2. Hi TheMan, not exactly a direct food question but just interested to know. If someone got caught bringing in prohibited food at AG, does he/she get "tagged" and will get checked (meaning they will get searched) with or without form declaration everytime they enter any port? or that specific port that they got caught before? That's the rumor that I heard, but I guess only you insiders know...

                                                      Thanks again! You are amazing!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: kobetobiko

                                                        If a person does not declare food and a food item is seized. They are subject to a $300 penalty and that penalty is recorded. Also, anytime we search a bag, we record the results of that inspection in our computer systems. Whenever passengers travel again, those records are available.

                                                        Ever get a speeding ticket? The next time you are pulled over and the cop says "ever do this before?" and you say "no". well, it is in the computer and he'll/she'll know.

                                                        How about if a person tries to bring drugs into the US? If they are caught, I am sure you would agree that they should be entered into a system that recorded the violation. Okay, we take the importation of food items just as seriously. People forget how expensive it gets to eradicate a pest species. Citrus canker cost the US govt and Florida billions of dollars. The ash species in michigan is greatly reduced due to the emerald ash borer. So, the elimination of a population of hardwoods is the result of an invasive species.

                                                        Folks usually say "it's just an orange!" But if that orange has a disease on its peel (and you can't see a lot of the early stages of some diseases). They go to florida, throw the orange peel in the trash, who knows where it goes? who knows where the bacteria goes?

                                                        Bottom line, we do what we have to do in order to increase the safety of america's agriculture and forest health.

                                                        1. re: TheMan

                                                          Hi TheMan,

                                                          Thank you for your fast response! I have no objection of what you guys do to protect the health of everyone here. I think it is the right thing to do. And if that person has learnt the lesson, it should not be a problem if he/she gets searched the next time (though the time to go through the line is probably the more annoying part)...

                                                          Thanks again!

                                                      2. Without question, you are The Man.

                                                        Happy holidays. Great post, great information.

                                                        - Sean

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Sean Dell

                                                          Just want to echo Sean's thoughts. Thanks so very much, Man, for all of the useful information.
                                                          Just to clarify: Would fois gras from ducks from France be considered a meat product and therefore banned from import?
                                                          Does it make a difference if the duck fois gras in in a glass jar or in a can? I am surprised no one brought this up or did I miss something?

                                                          1. re: erica

                                                            that is okay. people bring it all the time. but it is a meat so itg should be declared.

                                                          2. re: Sean Dell

                                                            I have to echo this- I admit I was sketpical when "The Man" showed up and offered to answer this but not nly have you informed so many of us, you're also showing that you guys know your stuff. Gives me a bit of faith in the beaurocracy if half of the customs guys are as informaed as you are.

                                                          3. TheMan, I just want to say I think it's great that you're going out of your way to inform people like this and spending so much time on it. So much better than having people find out in the airport!

                                                            One thing that I am curious about that someone else touched on, is it the same dog for everything (drugs, foods, bombs)? Or can one dog only handle one specialty?

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: Zabalburu

                                                              well, we are pretty slow in the wintertime and esp. now so it is no big deal. thanks for the kind words.

                                                              most of the beagles are trained to find fruits and meats. however, a few have been crosstrained to get drugs so i can't really say...this type of dog goes for this, this type of dog goes for this.

                                                              their noses are really sensitive and i've seen a dog find a lemon that was wrapped in four ziplock bags. i've also seen drug dogs find narcotic items strapped to people and (yup) inside of people.

                                                              1. re: Zabalburu

                                                                I've been assigned to the security sweeps for Secret Service and Diplomatic Security prior to Presidential and high ranking US and foreign dignitaries' appearances. The dogs used were trained to react to explosives and didn't care about anything in catering areas or some areas where we did worry about possible "recreational pharmaceuticals," such as entertainers' dressing rooms and production areas.
                                                                Friends with DEA have told me that their drug dogs are also very choosy and won't be thrown off the scent by drugs being hidden in even the smelliest food products. People try that all the time - doesn't work.
                                                                The cute little beagles are chowhounds just like us, preferring food to drugs and bombs, or so I've been told.

                                                                TheMan may or may not be able to tell us exactly what the case is with the dogs in regular use at various ports of entry due to security concerns. Most of what I've learned I've had to piece together from experience since nobody talks about it much. Not that it seems to be any big secret. Customs does use pretty sophisticate equipment beyond dog noses, however good they are.

                                                                  1. re: RicRios

                                                                    TSA has a sniffer machine that puffs little amounts air as it detects explosive material so sniffer machines are not too far off. If you can program it to look for bombs, I am sure it can be programmed to look for other items too. However, TSA's main
                                                                    mission is to find bombs and secure the safety of the plane so I doubt they are overly concerned about drugs or meats.

                                                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                                                    Years ago, I worked for the BBC and was assigned to Belfast, at the height of the 'troubles'. After a weekend in Dublin, my girlfriend made me a yummy beef sandwich for my train ride north, which I saved for my lunch. Like a good chowhound, I thought about that sandwich several times on the train journey, but held off, the better to enjoy it at lunch.

                                                                    When we arrived in Belfast, the platform had several lunking great British Army squaddies in attendance, together with a couple of lady Royal Ulster Constabulary cops, with beagles on leashes.

                                                                    'Open your bag', said one to me, and I duly obliged. While she asked me questions, she stuck the nose of her beagle into the bag. After a miraculously short time (two seconds, maybe three), I realized that the effing beagle was chowing my beef! I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and dragged him out of my bag, causing a minor freak out on the part of the RUC officer, and a general scrambling of the big squaddies.

                                                                    I was furious, the sandwich lying half eaten on the platform. She was furious, her precious little beagle having been manhandled by a southerner (I explained to her that she was lucky I didn't choke the little fecker). And the squaddies, as soon as they realized what had happened, fell around laughing, and subjected the dog handler to some raunchy verbals (the word 'bitch' was bandied about, with gaeity).

                                                                    I still miss the taste of that sandwich.

                                                                    - Sean

                                                                    1. re: Sean Dell

                                                                      Here in the states, our CBP dogs are considered federal employees are are protected as much. The law all came about because they had a dog that was kicked by an irate passenger after it found some mangos and the guy actually broke the dog's ribs and it couldn't work anymore. I know the penalty is at least $5000 bucks and some jail time in a federal pen.

                                                                      1. re: Sean Dell

                                                                        Not acceptable at all. In any case federal working dogs are held in the same reguard as my fellow 2 legged coworkers thanks to the Barney Bill. Lay a hand on him and you'll get one back from me. Pick on someone your own size, its just a sandwich.

                                                                  3. I have a question. The last time I was in Malaysia, I visited a village and petted a pet bull (yes, I said pet bull) that a friend of my family owns. When I came home, I filled out the form accurately, to the effect that I had come into contact with a farm animal. The Agriculture Department scanned my bags and told me I was free to go. Was I in fact wise to follow my instincts and principles and be truthful, or was I risking being quarantined and prevented from going home, as some people to whom I told the story thought? What would you have done in the same situation?

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                      Ugh, well, that question moreso applies to ruminants (cows, goats, deer, etc.) but "all animals" are included. I guess the same follows with chocholate. People don't know whether to check yes if they are bringing food when all they have is a box of chocholates. In that case, it comes down to officer discretion for us. I mean, you mark "no" for food and are be boppin through the line with a big box of chocholate in your hand...i am sure an officer or two will say"you have chocholate, what else DIDN'T you declare."
                                                                      So, in the end, just say yeah. now with animals, dogs are okay. Moreso farm type animals that may have disease are a concern. Unless the dog had some disease and it bit you. Then, maybe you would talk to our disease control officer out of respect for your own safety.

                                                                      1. re: TheMan

                                                                        But did I risk being quarantined and prevented from leaving the airport? That's really my question.

                                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                                          nope. you would have gotten fined if you didn't declare it. it would have been seized. declared, just seized. we don't shut down the airport and detain someone for that type of infraction.

                                                                          1. re: TheMan

                                                                            WHAT would have been seized? I wasn't bringing in anything, and I don't see how anyone could have figured out that I petted a bull. I did wash my hands afterwards, after all.

                                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                                              I'm replying to myself to say that this exchange has convinced me that there was no particular reason to say that I had come into contact with a farm animal. That is, unless TheMan or someone else can explain why that was important.

                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                sorry, in your original post you said Dog, or I thought you said dog, so I replied to that. A bull is a ruminant so it does fall under our concern list.

                                                                                No, the risk is the feces or soil that you may bring on your shoes. That is a foot and mouth item. some folks walk around and get stuff all over their shoes and then walk to their feed lots back home and track the bacteria to their own animals. low risk, but we like to ask the folks some more detailed questions to see what the deal is. We get a few USDA vets that come through a lot and if we don't do their shoes, they get all out of sorts with us so we treat everyone as if they are a USDA vet.

                                                                                The rules change all the time though so it is best to just declare. You are right, you say you touch a farm animal and you will be referred to an Ag spec. Now, if that animal was a sick chicken in asia, than you would be talking to us and CDC as well. But, the chances are that joe/jane traveler go to asia and pick up a chicken are slight. even if they do, what can we really do unless you are bleeding from your head (doubtful!!!)

                                                                                1. re: TheMan

                                                                                  You misread "pet bull" as "pit bull," apparently. The Malays in the village no longer keep pet dogs, which as Muslims, they consider unclean. (I realize not all Muslims feel there's anything wrong with keeping dogs as pets.)

                                                                                  It's interesting to note that the Agriculture Department screened my bags only, not my shoes.

                                                                                  Since I live in New York City and never come into contact with farm animals in the U.S., I was at about zero risk of transmitting foot and mouth disease, even if the very healthy bull I came into contact with had been a carrier.

                                                                                  1. re: TheMan

                                                                                    Once, I shipped home a pair of hiking boots to the US from the UK. This was in around 2001, so everyone was in an uproar about Foot/Hoof and Mouth. When the boots arrived, there was a slip inside alerting me to the fact that the box had been opened. I would have realized that anyways, though, because the soles of the shoes had been disinfected and were so clean I probably could have eaten off them.

                                                                                    But everytime I've been through customs with a form that indicated that, yes, I may have walked around a farm or two, I notice that they never ask which pair of shoes I was wearing when I was walking around. So are they worried about something on my shoes or that I might have brought something back?

                                                                      2. wow.. great post!
                                                                        I have a question! Always wondered about this... can I EVER bring ice cream back with me? or frozen foods? Japan has haagen dazs ice cream flavors we don't have in the U.S. and everytime I go, I want to load my suitcase with them! Is it just not posible?

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: yum

                                                                          If the country has Foot and Mouth disease, than ice cream is not enterable. Japan currently doesn't have it, so it is enterable. Now, port policy may influence that. So, I would find out the airport you are going to enter the US in. Go to cbp.gov, look up the port telephone number, call the Customs line, ask to speak to someone in agriculture, and talk to them about ice cream. Get their name and then you should be good to go. That is what I would do.

                                                                          1. re: TheMan

                                                                            thanks! btw, if it is possible to bring it in the u.s. how do i go about it? is dry ice allowed? do i pack it with dry ice and check it in, or can i carry on?

                                                                            1. re: yum

                                                                              Ugh, now you move to the area that is up to the FFA and TSA. Carry on ice cream...with the new changes, I don't think that would work. However, if you don't have another flight after you land (You fly into the port that is close to your home), then that depends on what the security in the country you leave will allow. Dry Ice...I would think that would be not allowed, but you'll have to check. Some people buy these styrofoam coolers and tape them shut with ice bags in them. They then put them in boxes or their luggage. Now, obviously, that item looks wierd on an xray so it will be opened (box of ice cream looks just like brick of dope!). SO, people come prepared for the matter with tape in hand. Also, you got to hope that it doesn't get lost cause you will get a soggy bag when it finally comes to you. But, you'd be surprised what people do to get their stuff over.

                                                                        2. The Man, thanks for taking time to answer questions and educate all of us about what's acceptable, what isn't and why. I have a question that's more about procedure than products.

                                                                          I travel frequently to Mexico and often do bring food items back, always allowed products. I clear customs most frequently at SFO, LAX, SAN (San Diego) or IAH (Houston) and I always declare any ag products I may be bringing back. At LAX, SAN and SFO the customs agents usually just ask what the ag products are, I tell them - dried chiles, dried beans, whatever - and they send me on my way. However, when I am asked the very same question at IAH and respond the very same way; every single time I am diverted for secondary inspection. My bags are never opened or searched but merely put through an x-ray machine. The customs agent manning the x-ray machine again asks what the ag products are, and again I say what they are and the bags go up on conveyor and through the machine. This whole process has takes anywhere from about 2 mintues up to 10 minutes depending upon how many people are in line in front of me.

                                                                          Why is the procedure different at one airport as compared to others? And is a the x-ray screening really more effective than a physical search? The first couple of times I found it something of a nuisance, now I just plan on an extra 15 minutes for immigration and customs when transiting through IAH. But I am very curious as to why one airport can be so different than the others.


                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                            Ha. Some airports have busy times, others don't. Some deal with flights that come from all over the world. Some deal only with mexico and canada. Our airport processes dozens of flights from asia and europe, the mexico flights are few and far between. However, if you worked at a port where the only thing you did was mexico, then you would look hard at those flights.

                                                                            I guess it all depends. Didn't places operate VERY differently.

                                                                            I mean, I tried to transfer with a guy at another port and he was like "we are so busy, we get 7 flights a day" Man, We have like 7 flights an hour! So, it is all about what they are used to. I am sure they operate differently than we do.

                                                                          2. How about Spanish olive oil? I always buy from a grocery store and have brought 10 litres back myself on one trip (clothing was left in the hotel room for the maids) but I was nervous about buying it right from a producer's farm, because I would be devistated if it was confiscated.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. This is some very interesting material. Thanks for all your info.

                                                                              Regarding importing cured meats from Italy......

                                                                              You touched briefly on ham (from Spain, I think), but I've been reading articles that refer to a rather recent change which allows commercial importation of a number of Italian cured meats that were previously banned. I would assume that 'pork is pork', and that most such meats are made from pork, so can you comment on this subject?

                                                                              Also....... where would you suggest is the best reference for specific details on what can and can't be imported in such a category? [The harmonized tarriff schedules can sometimes be a little obscure on subjects like this.]


                                                                              1. Hi Midlife,

                                                                                There is a whole thread discussing "Bringing Cured Meat from Italy"

                                                                                Just so TheMan doesn't need to repeat all the details once again.

                                                                                Hope this helps.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                                                                  google PPQ MANUAL and all our manuals come up. Go to the meat product manual and look at the matrix for clearing passenger baggage.

                                                                                2. I have to admit I am a bit confused now, Man. You say that duck fois gras is considered a meat and that it is ok to bring in from France. Ok. Packed in a can or a jar makes no difference, right?

                                                                                  Now what about pork products? Are ALL of these a no-no? Italian prosciutto, Iberian ham, salamis from Europe? Are any pork products ok from Italy, France or Spain?

                                                                                  And what about beef products from Italy: bresaola?

                                                                                  If you are bringing in a products that is legal to import but forget to declare it will you get into trouble?

                                                                                  Thanks so much for the clarification..sorry to seem so dense.

                                                                                  oops. One more thing that I have always wanted to bring home: Fresh artichokes with no soil attached from Italy. Ok or no go???

                                                                                  Have a great holiday and thanks for being so patient.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: erica

                                                                                    fois gras, as of now, is okay if it isn't a ruminant and doesn't come from an avian influenza infected country. France right now is off the list (except for an area of France), but we treat it as all fine from France until we hear dif from our supervisors. WE did seize some deer fois gras in a 3 pack not too long ago cause it is a ruminant.

                                                                                    pork is pretty much no. Sausage is cooked in a way that doesn't kill the pathogen we are concerned about so it isn't allowed from virtually anywhere. The "fatback" is the same story. The more expensive meats you mentioned are seized as well. Beef from Italy, I would have to check a matrix cause we don't get that often...more pork from Italy we see. So, I would call the CBP port that you are flying into and ask to speak to an agriculture specialist to get the information that is port specific.

                                                                                    If you don't declare food and we find a box of cookies or something, it is okay. Now, if you say I have no food and then we scan a bag and all we see is organics. We will look at every item in that bag. I cant count the number of times we interview someone, they say no food, we scan it, 2 bags FULL of food. After looking at it, they are like, I know what I can bring in. Every now again, we'll find a prohibited item or two and the passenger looks foolish and will get a $300 penalty for failure to declare.

                                                                                    Really though, if you say no when you have food, and we find boatloads in a bag, it makes us wonder what else this person is bringing into the country and isn't telling us.

                                                                                    We may screen primarily for food, but we also do our fair share of finding drugs, weapons, documents, child and animal porn, commerical goods, knock off merchandise, jeeze, a whole laundry list of items.

                                                                                    Fresh Artichoke? Again, I'd have to look at it cause we don't get that often. I know we get white asparagus from Germany a lot and that is fine. So I can't say blanket NO on that item. Like I said, get a list together and call the port you will be flying into. Every now and again, we get phone calls and are happy to answer them. You shouldn't be fearful of calling the people who are paid from your taxes!

                                                                                    1. re: TheMan

                                                                                      You are incredibly helpful. But I'm still confused...if I bring back foie gras from France, I will declare it as a meat, but they will allow me to bring it in, right? You say that France is NOT on the list right now for avian flu-infected countries, but there is a specific region that is still on the list? Which region?
                                                                                      Also, what can we do when bringing in a product that we believe is enterable, but encounter an agent who is unfamiliar with the product and wants to confiscate it? Is there something we can print out from a website to support our claim? Should we ask for a supervisor? Of course, I would always remain calm and friendly and cheerful in such an instance!

                                                                                      1. re: perigord lover

                                                                                        Fois Gras is an inspect and release item. You must declare it on your form and an inspector will take a look at the ingredients label. If pork is present, the fois gras must be in a shelf stable can or jar (meaning cooked in the can/jar and doesn't slosh around when you shake it). Again, google PPQ mannuals online and check out the Animal Products manual.

                                                                                  2. This is a wonderful thread---I am grateful to the Customers Officer who began it. I hope he will also tell people that---I assume this is still the case as it was a few years ago---people returning from Puerto Rico can bring in any pineapple they want and are not limited to the ones sold in the airport under a big sign saying that THOSE pineapples are OK to bring (last time I was there, those so-called OK pineapples were actually from Hawaii while field-grown sweet local PR pineapples were just as okay, and infinitely cheaper, only most tourists didn't know that). Customs Officer, is this still the case?

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Querencia

                                                                                      pineapples are okay, unless going to hawaii, which has an industry.

                                                                                    2. What are the different rules for alcohol? Is it different for wine vs. spirits? What are the limits to bring in duty-free? and what are the fees like if you bring in more than the duty-free limit?

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Maya

                                                                                        HEre it is from our websit...cbp.gov

                                                                                        Alcoholic BeveragesOne liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages may be included in your exemption if:

                                                                                        You are 21 years old.
                                                                                        It is for your own use or as a gift.
                                                                                        It does not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive.

                                                                                        Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but, as with extra tobacco, you will have to pay duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.

                                                                                        While Federal regulations do not specify a limit on the amount of alcohol you may bring back for personal use, unusual quantities are liable to raise suspicions that you are importing the alcohol for other purposes, such as for resale. CBP officers are authorized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to make on-the-spot determinations that an importation is for commercial purposes, and may require you to obtain a permit to import the alcohol before releasing it to you. If you intend to bring back a substantial quantity of alcohol for your personal use, you should contact the port through which you will be re-entering the country, and make prior arrangements for entering the alcohol into the United States.

                                                                                        Also, you should be aware that state laws might limit the amount of alcohol you can bring in without a license. If you arrive in a state that has limitations on the amount of alcohol you may bring in without a license, that state law will be enforced by CBP, even though it may be more restrictive than federal regulations. We recommend that you check with the state government before you go abroad about their limitations on quantities allowed for personal importation and additional state taxes that might apply.

                                                                                        In brief, for both alcohol and tobacco, the quantities discussed in this booklet as being eligible for duty-free treatment may be included in your $800 or $1,600 exemption, just as any other purchase would be. But unlike other kinds of merchandise, amounts beyond those discussed here as being duty-free are taxed, even if you have not exceeded, or even met, your personal exemption. For example, if your exemption is $800 and you bring back three liters of wine and nothing else, two of those liters will be dutiable. Federal law prohibits shipping alcoholic beverages by mail within the United States.

                                                                                        Okay, now, if you bring back a few extra fifths, than the duty is determined by the proof content of the alcohol. It can get upwards of over $50 quick. Again, there is a matrix we use based on size and proof that we determine duty rates so it is hard to say you will be charged X$ for Xbottles.

                                                                                        1. re: TheMan

                                                                                          Your info has been really helpful, particularly about where to find answers for specifics foodstuffs.

                                                                                          But, now I'm confused about wine. In your earlier response to yayadave, you said that wine is duty free and that you can "bring back as much wine as you are willing to carry or pay for per the airline. US CBP doesn't charge for wine, as long as it is for personal use and not for sale" But, here you say that the one liter rule applies, which is what I always assumed.

                                                                                          Could you clarify?

                                                                                          1. re: JRL

                                                                                            wine is duty free. that is the reg for wine. spirits, however, fall under a different reg. unless you bring back a ton of it or it is for commercial sale. a ton is like you bring back a case of wine and you are the only person on the dec. you have a family or your spouse, than that is okay.

                                                                                            1. re: TheMan

                                                                                              Thanks for clearing that up. Now, all I have to do is leave room in my luggage!

                                                                                              1. re: JRL

                                                                                                You can now buy special wine luggage of various sizes. Or rig your own. I have a canvas bag with two heavily padded boxes that will each accommodate 12 bottles of wine. I take it empty, come home with it full. In the times that I have used it, I have had one broken bottle and never paid duty. The case has space for other items and still is within the size limits. Have to be careful with weight internationally and especially with overseas domestic in some countries.
                                                                                                Of course, I travel very light otherwise and can go for weeks with one suitcase - they have laundry service abroad!

                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                  MakingSense, can you post some links to the luggage you mentioned?

                                                                                                  1. re: JoLi

                                                                                                    Pretty sure Wine Spectator has them. They aren't large however. Not big enough for a case of wine.
                                                                                                    I used cardboard cases that I had received when I got wine shipped to me via UPS or FedEx domestically. Then I bought a sturdy canvas bag large enough to accommodate 2 of them.
                                                                                                    Check measurement, weight restrictions and baggage allowances with airlines as these vary.

                                                                                              2. re: TheMan

                                                                                                The passage above says, "But unlike other kinds of merchandise, amounts beyond those discussed here as being duty-free are taxed, even if you have not exceeded, or even met, your personal exemption. For example, if your exemption is $800 and you bring back three liters of wine and nothing else, two of those liters will be dutiable."

                                                                                                So only 1 liter of wine is duty-free.

                                                                                                And, again, I can't emphasize enough the part that says the laws of the state apply. Be careful where you clear customs when you bring wine back with you or risk having it impounded or confiscated.

                                                                                        2. I once crossed the border at Tijuana and watched as my lovely bottle of kahlua got poured down the drain. Seems you can bring it in if you're flying, but there was a California law that wouldn't let you bring in booze in your car. Is that still the case?

                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                            yeah, states have different laws. i work at an airport, so that is my knowledge base. flying into a country is one thing, driving across the border is another.

                                                                                            1. re: TheMan

                                                                                              I've found that many people in Asian countries just take their favorite meats, fruit, cockfighting eggs to a local "canner" who just seals it in a can for a fee. In fact some canners just apply solder around the lid. It seems to slip by at San francisco airport all the time.

                                                                                              1. re: gourmetwannabe

                                                                                                yeah, we get those at our port too. cans not labled are usually xrayed by themselves and you can easily spot mangos or fruits in them. We open to see if they are pickled, if not, it is considered concealment and the fine is a lot more ($1000). We've had people fall to their knees when we open a can up that isn't labled and find a dozen mangos in them. "BUT I WANTED THEM!" Then, we take it into the back and crack open the seed to find a little mango weevil hanging out in there. Mango weevils live inside the seed and are not visible on the skin or in the fruit. You take some PVC cutters out and crack into the seed and the little guys fall out.

                                                                                                1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                  You've just (temporarily) destroyed my appetite for mango.

                                                                                                  Is there any way you can tell from the exterior of the fruit if it has been "occupied" or are unblemished mangoes just as likely to be afflicted?

                                                                                                  1. re: Humbucker

                                                                                                    nah. my first week, a very experienced and wise ag spec showed me the nuances of the mango weevil and I too was amazed. No damage on the fruit at all. I was like "why can't that enter?" a crack of the seed pod was all I needed to see. Little guys fell out and danced all over the place.

                                                                                                    Still, being an entomologist, you would not believe the amount of insect parts that are allowed and could be found in...say...peanut butter. For one of my classes, we took a bottle of PB off the shelf from a Grocer and separated the peanut butter from the parts. Legs and heads galore. It just can't be avoided. Oh well, more protein I reckon.

                                                                                                    1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                      Eek - there goes my appetite for pb!

                                                                                                      1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                        No, the fruit actually grows around the weevil, who eventually eats its way out. My experience is that you only know a weevil is inside once you crack open the seed. The fleshy part of the mango can be contaminated by fruit fly larvae (maggots). yummy

                                                                                            2. Hey - I'll try again 'cause my other one was deleted and I think I know why (I wont ask about anything besides food - no one reply telling me about passport! deal?)

                                                                                              Do the same restrictions apply for cruises? Specifically to the carribean. Anything specific food-wise we should be careful about?

                                                                                              TheMan- you rock - thanks for this!

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: krissywats

                                                                                                yeah, customs officials meet all cruise passengers. usually fruit is the biggie on cruises; no fruit enters the USA.

                                                                                                1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                  You seriously are THE MAN - and I mean that in the 'thank you sense' not in the 'with his jackboot on my neck' sense.

                                                                                              2. Hi TheMan,

                                                                                                Thank you so much again for all these informative posts. Can't tell you how much I learnt from your posts with the real insider's perspectives. Really helpful to think things and apppreciate the effort that goes into people who work at the customs.

                                                                                                I am traveling to Asia in a few weeks so I am going to selfishly post some questions for my trips (hopefully may help others who frequestly travel between Asia and the US)

                                                                                                Am I allowed to bring food that are stored in liquid (not alchools) such as juices or oils? For instance, some herbs are stored in oils to preserve for a longer time, so are some dried fish or anchovies, and chiles and so forth.

                                                                                                Also, am I allow to bring fruit juices? Such as fresh sugar cane juice, or guava juice?

                                                                                                Thanks again for your great great help!

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                                                                                  THose are fine. all of those actually.

                                                                                                2. And/or Cuban rum?

                                                                                                  1. Thank you for this topic, it is very helpful. I just mailed some absinthe in a box with other stuff from Europe and it has not arrived. I am assuming that customs confiscated this prohibited item.

                                                                                                    1) Will they send me my other stuff which is just clothes and misc. items?

                                                                                                    2) Will I or the shipper be penalized?

                                                                                                    It was shipped from an APO address.

                                                                                                    Thanks for you help!

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: shibalba

                                                                                                      well, chances are personal items are searched. the absinthe, if discovered, would be seized and destroyed and you'll get a little note from CBP that says what happened. You'll get the other non prohibited items back no prob.

                                                                                                    2. Hi TheMan,

                                                                                                      I've tried looking around for an explicit list of foods deemed "enterable foodstuffs" for the US but have been unsuccessful. I'm traveling from Canada to the US and am hoping to bring only five things back with me. Would you give me a heads up on what I can expect at the counter?

                                                                                                      1. Pork Jerky (4 x 300g, Vacuum Packed, Product of Canada)
                                                                                                      I understand that beef jerky is prohibited, but have been informed by US Customs agents that its pork equivalent is OK at this time?

                                                                                                      2. Earrings -> gift
                                                                                                      Will I be charged taxes for bringing back earrings? I'm a Canadian citizen, my stay was 16 days long. What is the max. value allowable in these cases?

                                                                                                      3. Torani brand Raspberry syrup (like the ones at Starbucks)
                                                                                                      I've seen Torani flavoring syrup (for italian sodas) in all the coffee shops I go to in the US but only Whole Foods sells them retail in the US. Am I allowed bringing in the syrup?

                                                                                                      4. Wisconsin grown Ginseng
                                                                                                      I think I'm allowed to bring the Ginseng BACK into the US?

                                                                                                      5. Dried red dates (3 x 400g)
                                                                                                      I am just double checking for the dried red dates, since they've been no problem any of the times I've brought them before.


                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: anonamoose

                                                                                                        syrup is okay. ginseng, if it says Product of USA on packaging is fine. Dried dates are okay. earrings? are they studs? if so, than no. if not, than it depends on the type of material they are set in. some jewelry has around a 5% duty imposed on their value. pork is alright. beef is a no go. are you a US Citizen? if not, than you ahve a $200 free entry amount that can be brought into the US that is not dutiable. confusing, isn't it?

                                                                                                        1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                          Why not stud earrings??? That seems really really weird to me.

                                                                                                      2. Hi TheMan,
                                                                                                        I always try to get my parents to bring me Singani (like pisco) when they visit from Bolivia and they only ever bring me one bottle. Whats the limit on how much they can bring?
                                                                                                        I would like to bring a case...
                                                                                                        Hopefully yours,

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: bolivianita

                                                                                                          it is made from grapes, but is considered a liquor, right? so, you can bring back as much as you want, but it will be subject to duty. duty isn't outrageous since it is low proof (I presume it is low proof). So, a case can be brought in, but they will pay duty. Call the CBP port that they fly into and ask to speak to someone about duty. Then, you can get an idea of what the import taxes will be.

                                                                                                        2. My wife is from central France and goat cheese is one of the products that this area is celibrated for. How should we package this cheese to get it through customs?



                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: SCChris

                                                                                                            Since the Goat cheese is fresh, but not wet, not draining water or oozing. Is this fine to enter the US? Would it be fine vacuum packed and would this make any difference other than my packing? I noted above, at the top of the thread, that as long as the value is under $800 commercial, customs doesn't care.

                                                                                                            for the thread.


                                                                                                            1. re: SCChris

                                                                                                              cheese, as long as it isn't wet (i.e. milky) is okay. vacuum packing doesn't affect if it can come in or not. we seize meat all the time and the common response is "But, it is vacuumed packed." it does not matter.

                                                                                                          2. Okay, here goes... I am planning a trip to the wine region of Argentina in a few weeks. I know I would pay a huge stipend to someone with an importer's license to enable me ship my wine back to me. But what if I decide to carry some back? I'm in California and similar friends have brought as much as two cases from European countries. Is there a limit on how much I can bring back with me?

                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                                              I'm not the customs guy so consider the source, but I have brought back large quantities (several cases) of wine from France and while I had to pay an increasingly heavy duty, there was no question of my being allowed to keep it. The customs guy at LAX told me the restrictions were a) had to be in 375mL or 750mL bottles, b) had to be small enough quantity so there wouldn't be a question of resale. Since I was bringing back four cases, that's not enough for resale.

                                                                                                              I want to say the duty was $2 a litre but I could be wrong, it was quite a while ago.

                                                                                                              1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                                                Also not the Customs Guy. Wonder where TheMan went?
                                                                                                                I have brought back wine from Chile and Argentina. Two cases from each on separate trips. Did not have to pay duty. Obviously not enough for resale.
                                                                                                                I posted earlier on the way I package it, carrying an empty bag for my wine on the way down and full on the way home. There are however limitations within country in Latin America on baggage size and amounts on some small planes. If you are flying to/from Mendoza, you may want to check on aircraft.

                                                                                                                I did a private importation years ago, shipping my cellar back to the States. You have to ship a lot of wine to make it worth your while. It's pretty expensive.

                                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                  Thanks, MakingSense... I guess our big question is two fold; can we stumble on a winery or shipping office that will be able to provide us with the necessary styroforam case shippers and how many cases are we will willing to try and manage on the trip home (we have a one-day stop in Panama and a one-day stop in LA en route home so that will be a lot of managing heavy cases and luggage).

                                                                                                                  Thanks for the insight though! Should be a grand trip...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                                                    The quality of packaging materials abroad is generally poor and I have carried my own for decades, not just for wine but for other things. Don't count on getting shipping-worthy stuff. I always lay a few sheets of bubble wrap flat in my bag for the chance porcelain in China or the new platter from Grazia in Italy. Also packing tape.
                                                                                                                    As I said in my earlier post, I have a dedicated canvas bag outfitted with heavy cardboard boxes that I use when I plan to bring back wine. It complies with airline size restrictions. When it's heavy, I pay porters, skycaps.
                                                                                                                    Weight the aggravation factors of your stopovers against the value of the wines you will bring back.
                                                                                                                    Heed Melanie Wong's advice about where you will clear Customs. As TheMan has posted here, you can call the Customs service at the port of entry.
                                                                                                                    What you want to do is possible if you do your homework.

                                                                                                                2. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                                                  Carrie, where wine is concerned, the Feds will enforce the laws of the state where you clear customs. If you're landing in LAX or SFO, no problem, to bring back those kind of quantities. Or as one Calif.-based officer quipped, "two cases, that's barely one month's drinking", whereas in Virginia, I was considered a bootlegger. I'll never connect through Dulles again until the state laws change. Other states can be certainly more restrictive in their interpretation of "personal use".

                                                                                                                  1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                                                    I brought a case of wine back from Chile to Florida with no problem - declared it, wasn't asked to pay any duty.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Carrie 218

                                                                                                                      call the CBP port that you are entering and ask them if you want to bring back cases upon cases what you have to do.

                                                                                                                    2. I am planning a month long trip to alaska and I am planning on preparing a bunch of food prior to the trip. Some of this food includes cooked meat in chili. I was also planning on cooking meats with chicken and turkey. All of the food in the meals will be bought, prepared, and dried in Canada. My question is it okay to bring meals containing cooked meat into the US?

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. I'm planning a trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas this year. My husband and I went last year and he fell in love with the desolate beaches. I did too, but I dodn't fall in love with the expensive food prices and lack of supply. My question is what can I bring in a cooler, checked as baggage on the United Air, and Bahamas Air flights into Eleuthera? The Ticket Master at United told me I could bring meat, frozen vegetables and canned fruit. Of course, this is perfect but I've not been able to confirm anything on the internet. I'm assuming the 75 lbs. restriction still apllies.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: Mrs. lady

                                                                                                                          I work for US customs, not the Bahamas. Sorry, but I have no idea what they accept or not.

                                                                                                                        2. Hi there,
                                                                                                                          I'm travelling from Canada to US in a couple of days. Can I take corked, labelled, sealed home made wine? Would appreciate reply.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. Hi to TheMan
                                                                                                                            I frequently bring back 2 or 3 bottles of Cuban rum when I return by air from Mexico to the US, nestled within my scuba gear. I always declare it as rum. No customs agent has ever probed through my dive bag. What would be the consequences, if any, if a customs agent found my Cuban rum?
                                                                                                                            Many thanks, Veggo

                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                              3 bottles and one person may be a duty charge. usually 2 bottles per person is okay. obviously, declare the alcohol as you purchased it abroad.

                                                                                                                              1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                                                Even Cuban rum? I thought one wasn't allowed to bring Cuban made products into the US.

                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                  Well, if it is Cuban rum MADE in Cuba (i.e., Hecho in Cuba) than yeah, of course we will seize it. Items made in or from Cuba are no-gos. Same as North Korea. The same reason why cuban cigars are destroyed as is cuban coffee. But, you can find "Cuban rum" made in the dominican and in mexico all over the place. Heck, I saw some in a local liquor store in Ohio not too long ago. Closer look revealed that it was made in Mexico but sold under the name "Cuban rum". SOOOOOOOOOOOOO...no items made in cuba allowed. Unless you are a national of that country. Then the caveats start to apply. But, Joe blow USCitizen who was not born in cuba will not be bringing back Cuban rum.

                                                                                                                            2. TheMan,
                                                                                                                              I meant the genuine Cuban article... specifically, Havana Club rum, hecho en Cuba. Would there be a penalty beyond confiscation? It isn't that expensive, just yummy. Thanks.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                we spill it down the drain.

                                                                                                                                wait a couple weeks until fidel is dead and then it might change.

                                                                                                                              2. I think you are being an artful dodger by twice not answering the question. I will infer that the worst that can happen if I am found to be in possession of rum from Cuba is that it will be confiscated, and you would prefer that I not know for sure that that is the simple extent of the penalty for the infraction. I try to be a good citizen, but it seems to be an acceptable risk to continue to replenish my cabinet with my Havana Club Anejo.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                  You know, you asked what happened. I tell you. You ask again, I tell you again.

                                                                                                                                  Then you have to "infer" and "read between the lines." Bud, there isn't any thing beyond that. We find it, we spill it down the drains.

                                                                                                                                  Still, if you read my earlier posts, any inspection that is a positive gets recorded in our computer system. Next time you come be boppin through the lines, of course we are going to see what happened last time. Failure to declare once is an honest mistake. Repetitive is a mark of someone who won't be truthful and might be hiding items that we really don't want into the USA.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: TheMan

                                                                                                                                    Thank you, TheMan. I meant no disrespect; I guess I was not communicating well or not listening well. You raised a very interesting point earlier- how will US/Cuba relations change post-Fidel. We'll wait and watch. Thanks again, and for this whole thread. Very helpful to many.

                                                                                                                                2. This is a fantastic thread, thanks so much TheMan. I have a unique liquor question. I travel to Bosnia fairly frequently to visit family and there is a fantastic plum liquor they make called rakia, but the only Bosnian made varieties are basically home made. Is there any way I can package this in an acceptable way to bring it into the country? It is pretty high proof but of course there's no label. After the whole London liquid incident my days of bringing it back in a fanta bottle are clearly over. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                  1. I've really enjoyed this thread and add my thanks.

                                                                                                                                    My question is about bringing crisps (potato chips) back from the UK. The last time we came back was 2004, and the lady in Customs actually read the ingredients listing to see if there was indeed any beef in my grilled steak flavored crisps. This was due, she said, to a recent study showing that birds could pick up the empty packets out of the trash, get it on their claws, and spread foot and mouth disease (or was it mad cow).

                                                                                                                                    Needless to say there wasn't any steak in said crisps. But are there still issues such as this with such products as crisps? We're going back in May and that's one thing we always bring back. (And it took forever in Customs the last time. Between that and the jars of babyfood that she had to make sure didn't include actual dairy....)


                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: cackalackie

                                                                                                                                      Don't you just love the grilled steak with carmelized onion flavor????? I just got back from Ireland (Shannon to Boston) with a carry-on stuffed full and no one batted an eye.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sparkalina

                                                                                                                                        I haven't had the ones with caramelised onion. I really can't wait to see what they have the next time I go over (in May). Someone on another thread said she just got chip buttie flavor!

                                                                                                                                        The thing that happened to me last time was that I had a one-year-old and obviously a diaper bag-looking backpack. So they were anxioius to see about baby food, milk, dairy, etc. So they looked through everything.

                                                                                                                                        I do hope The Man can come back and address this particular issue.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: cackalackie

                                                                                                                                        The Man or Beagle Handler..........Can you address my issue please?! Ta!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: cackalackie

                                                                                                                                          Crisps are fine. Beef (ruminant) baby food is not.

                                                                                                                                      3. I wish you would clarify what the rule is for canned foie gras from France? In Feb 2006 , I declared it, it was inspected and allowed. In Nov 2006, I declared the same product, from the same manufactuerer , it was inspected and confiscated. In Feb I cleared customs in Chicago, in November at JFK. Did the rule change between Feb and Nov?

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: jcnd

                                                                                                                                          Around that time there was alot of confusion with the bird flu in France situation. It was announced that they had it so we through it out. A few days later politics kicked in and said, no, only bird products from a certain region of France. Thats all I can think of. At this time Fois Gras from France is ok as long as it is shelf stable. This of course could change at the drop of a hat.

                                                                                                                                        2. THe best, and worst thing, about Irish and British crisps is the flavoring. I always bring back Walkers Blue, and Tayto Red. The former, salted, the latter, cheese n onion (the actual flavor has nothing to do with either cheese, or onion, but if you are reared on these things, it matters little).

                                                                                                                                          I've never had a problem bringing them in, and although I don't declare them (because I've never thought to), I don't hide them either.

                                                                                                                                          What is interesting is the flavor, or rather, the flavor enhancers. THey are LOADED with MSG. Your mouth is on fire after one bag, but you have to have a second. It's amazing to me that they get away with this, given how protective the EC has become. But in terms of quality, I realize now that a bag of Cape Cod chips is a far superior product.

                                                                                                                                          - Sean

                                                                                                                                          1. Hi:

                                                                                                                                            I wanted to know the following: I will be travelling to the US and want to take about two suitcases full of plantain, yucca and tortilla chips. They are packaged just like snacks but in clear material. No brand and are for persnal consumption. They are fried.

                                                                                                                                            Will i have problems with these? Thanks.

                                                                                                                                            1. The Man-
                                                                                                                                              Thank you for the thread. What items are frequently seized from India? I know many people who bring spices, grains and even yogurt cultures, even though most can be obtained at indian grocery stores.

                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: masala maci

                                                                                                                                                India: Mangoes, fresh fruit in general, fresh curry leaves, chicken

                                                                                                                                                1. re: masala maci

                                                                                                                                                  . So spices are okay to bring from India to US? I bought some dired curry leaves, peppes, and turmeric at a spice plantation and only later realized I might not be able to get them in the county...

                                                                                                                                                2. TheMan, thank you! You mentioned that there are tight restrictions on citris. Does this include citris juice? I'm going to Sicily on Friday and I'd love to bring back some blood orange juice in a can or jar. Would this be okay?

                                                                                                                                                  1. Hello!

                                                                                                                                                    This is awsome! I'm travelling to Molokai, HI in May and I've heard that things can be very expensive there. Here is a list of things I was thinking of packing in the checked baggage:

                                                                                                                                                    dried spices
                                                                                                                                                    olive oil
                                                                                                                                                    safflower oil
                                                                                                                                                    tomatoe paste
                                                                                                                                                    canned tomatoes
                                                                                                                                                    canned beans
                                                                                                                                                    canned tuna
                                                                                                                                                    jar of mayonnaise
                                                                                                                                                    salad dressing

                                                                                                                                                    Will these be ok?

                                                                                                                                                    1. I'm going from Niagara Falls, Ontario to Buffalo to watch the NCAA Tournament. I want to bring some samosas with me. They are little Indian pastries full of potatoes that are deep fried.

                                                                                                                                                      1. My sister in law wrote the following to me. She lives in Zambia. Any info you could give would be much appreciated. Thanks:

                                                                                                                                                        I tried several times without success to get info. from the Internet on what the current U.S. restrictions are on bringing in store-bought dried fruit into the county as well as home-made fruit cakes (which Mom made & is hoping to bring). If you're able to find out if there are any restrictions on bringing them in, I'd be so grateful. I also have a small packet of home-made dried mango in a sealed bag, which I hope I could bring too. Thanks so much.

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: justmefrhk

                                                                                                                                                          dried and other processed fruit (fruit cakes) are generally allowed. No citrus is allowed, fresh or dried. Google PPQ Manuals and you will find the same manuals online that we use everyday

                                                                                                                                                        2. I have a friend serving with the Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa. She's asked me to send her some protein bars. Should I write "protein bars" on the USPS customs form, or should I describe the contents in some other way? Also, can I send: (1) nuts that are bought in bulk and packaged (by me) in zip-loc bags, (2) individually-wrapped bulk candies, (3) packaged dried fruit? If I send a carton with all of those things inside, how specific do I have to be on the USPS customs form? Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                          1. I'm a US citizen residing outside the US. With regards to my duty-free allowance, when I come back to visit do I go by the limits for citizens or visitors? Also, I wanted to bring a dried flower wreath as a gift for someone - am I allowed to bring that into the country? I know live plants are prohibited, but am not sure what the stance is on dried ones.
                                                                                                                                                            Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of these questions. It is SO helpful!

                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Weebs

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, it would be what we consider "Inspect and Release". You must declare it as plant material. The inspectors will inspect it and shake it out. If insects fall out of it, it will be seized. If not, you are good to go.

                                                                                                                                                            2. hi. TheMan, you are the bomb!

                                                                                                                                                              i live for british style bacon and last time i was in england and was in tesco, i found an approximately 5 lb. slab of it which was vacuum packed. i wanted to bring it home, but my husband was crying like a baby that it was illegal so i didn't. now the in-laws are coming and i want that bacon. bad. i must have a bacon stotty soon!

                                                                                                                                                              please advise!

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: potterstreet

                                                                                                                                                                Vacuum packed bacon is not allowed due to Foot & Mouth disease and Classical Swine Fever. The only allowed pork would have to be in a shelf stable can or jar.
                                                                                                                                                                Again, you can check out the PPQ manuals online (Animal Products) by googling it.

                                                                                                                                                              2. A friend of mine in the Netherlands had mailed me a bottle of booze about 3 and a half weeks ago. My concern is, is this a normal amount of time for one bottle to get through customs? And if it is, how long should i expect to wait on my gift? I've spoken to others who have recieved alcohol overseas and never had a problem. Please help me.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Can u bring Chili's or TGI Fridays on you while leaving USA..to Canada?

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: shanty

                                                                                                                                                                    definately, if you eat it before you land

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Hi, I recently bought some packaged baobab seeds in Senegal and I would like to bring them back to the US. I'm flying into JFK as my port of entry. Will they get confiscated?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Hello TheMan... I am Armando, I live in the US Border with Mexico and I love Iberico products from Spain... I am intending to buy some Tenderloin (dry cured) from Spain.., could it enter the US customs? would it make any difference if I enter with it by plane or if UPS/FedEx international...thanks for your inport.... you're theman

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Where can I find an up to date list of foodstuff that is allowed/not allowed to bring back from Canada into the U.S.? Cannot seems to find any clear guidelines.
                                                                                                                                                                        Please include url in your reply if possible.

                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you in advance.

                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. Can I bring cooked meat through Canada customs from the US? I"ll by flying on United across to BC and wondered if I cook a lamb, goat & beef stew. Will I be permitted to take the leftovers (that I don't finish eating on the plane) across the border ? I'm sure I can't keep it uncooked/frozen and send it in my check-in in an ice-box, but if it is cooked, and is intended for 'personal use'? I'm going to an event, and am toying with the idea of cooking lots to contribute to the potluck, above and beyond my prepared meal on the flight, but still less than 5-10lb. Any suggestions on websites to see the 'rule' so I can be rest assured?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Looking for a list of foods that you cannot bring into the USA from Europe. This for a chef coming over from Switzerland who is doing a set of dinners in NYC.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Hi TheMan

                                                                                                                                                                              Here's a question for you. 'Biltong' (a dried meat, similar to jerky) is available in South Africa and is one of the staple snack foods there. Its even sold in the duty free section of the airports. It's not uncooked meat, as its totally dessicated, and it's usually vacuum packed.
                                                                                                                                                                              What are the rules on the US side, about bringing in biltong? (I have friends coming to the US - and even though I make my own biltong here in the US, I'd love to get some of the 'real' stuff). What do the rules say about this?

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: TheFamine

                                                                                                                                                                                TheFamine, I have tried before from (LAX, JFK, and IAH). No beef from South Africa allowed, period. In fact no biltong (cured meat) even if it's ostrich or gazelle. You need a FSIS certificate and South Africa does not have this, they have been tagged with everything but (BSE and H5N1).

                                                                                                                                                                              2. We just came back this week from London and in our suitcases we had cheese, cookies, pretzels, bread flour, chocolate and dried soup mix. They were not too thrilled with the cheese but didn't actually inspect it. The only thing they inspected was the dried soup mix. They said that if it had any beef stock in it, it would have to be thrown away. I was kind of surprised at that because I thought once it was dried to a powder, the beef was no longer an issue but it mattered to them.

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Velma

                                                                                                                                                                                  Its because of Mad Cow disease which isn't killed easily. You can incinerate an infected cow and the ashes could still infect other cattle. Its a very big problem and an outbreak would be devastating.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. if I am flying back from hawaii and have a few bottles of wine in my check in bacg, is that legal? how can i bring back the wine i get from say a winery in hawaii?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: yum

                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't work for the TSA, but you need to check it in. No liquids on the carry on from what I have been told.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Can I bring from frozen food in cooler to the carribean for a sailboat charter. Itinerary Boston-San Juan- Tortolla

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Greetings,
                                                                                                                                                                                      We will be crossing back into the US from Mexico by car/camper in the next month or so. Can we bring our extra Eukanuba dry dog food (read "expensive"!) into Texas? It is almost all "chicken by products" with a little "dried meat", not on the recall list and it was purchased in Mexico, if that matters?



                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Would there be any restriction on bringing a souvenir rock back from another country through US Customs. We're considering a trip to Britain and Ireland, and one of our small collections is small rocks (probably insignificant to many). I'm talking about a very small rock (something that you could easily hold in the palm of your hand), free of any soil or other debris -- something you might find at a tourist site on the ground or in a parking lot. Just curious if that would be allowed through customs.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks in advance to anyone who could comment!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: travellerguy

                                                                                                                                                                                          As long as it is free of soil it would be ok.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. We are traveling from the US to Vancouver via plane for a cruise. We would like to bring wine with us, in an approved shipper box, checked as baggage. How many bottles are we allowed for two travelers, please? thanks, much - you are great resource.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I shop at my Navy Exchange store in Sicily. Does wine or gifts that I purchase there count toward duty or customs limits for entry into the states?? The wine has the same stateside labels and warnings as the bottles that I purchase in the states. If I buy my clothes at the Navy Exchange in Sicily must I also declare those??? Thanks for all your help.


                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Okay.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I have a Texas Mickey (3L bottle) of Jack Daniels that I need to get to someone for a gift. From Canada to the US. Can I Fed Ex/UPS it??


                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                                                Me thinks TheMan hath left the room!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mhtmr

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have since learned that I cannot ship liquor into the US unless to a licensed importer. Which my friend is not.


                                                                                                                                                                                              2. How many bottles of wine can I bring back without paying duty or having some confiscated - I'll be coming from Italy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. HI, I have a question! I got inspected while crossing the borders from Canada to US. of course, iforgot throw out a couple pieces of fruit. They seized it and threw it away. WIll i get a fine in the mail? or is it just a warning? and if they do record it in the system..will it ever go away?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Peachfruit

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This has happened to me too. They just pitch it out -- it's like when you forget about the Brylcreem in your suitcase at the airport, they just pitch it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm sorry.. what do u mean they "pitch it out"? Does it mean they probably forgave me for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. I feel these are basic concerns but I don't seem to find the answers. I frequently visit Canada and return to U.S.A.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1) Are we allowed to take some prepared food/dinner or snacks that has meat (chicken), egg, and fish? These are usually ready to eat, or at time frozened (over night, but not in a cooler while travelling)
                                                                                                                                                                                                    2) Are we allowed to take ready eat snacks that does not have any meat/fish/poultry - for example (East) Indian version of trail mix or party mix?
                                                                                                                                                                                                    3) Are we allowed to take speacial rice floor, or fruit jams?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    4) Is there any way to get travel records between USA and Canada? I am a Canadian citizen who is going to apply for US citizenship. I need to show a record of all my travels. But Canada does not stamp my passport and I don't have some of the records of my travels. Would US immigration or customs be able to provide dates on my US entries?
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thank you for your great tips?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Hi,
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for putting your personal energy into this website. I and many others genuinely appreciate it. So, when I travel to Singapore, I LOVE to eat "Bah Kua." (Sometimes spelled Bah Kwa) It is a fully cooked meat product that is sold there. I cant find it in Southern California. So, can I bring it back home with me? I have been told that it is not allowed. If not, why? It doesnt make any sense to me, but then what do I know... *LOL* Anyhow, thanks again!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: levibaker

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Can mushrooms be confiscated if brought from Europe? Do they look for it in the x-ray machine or perhaps have dogs that are trained to sniff them out?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Not sure if this thread is still actively being looked at by the OP, but I've got a question that I don't think was asked:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'll be in Greece and would like to bring back honey to California. Is this okay? Are there any caveats to that?

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dave MP

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Please, tell me if I can receive water and dry corn samples (maize) from Chile. I'm working at the UC-Riverside and a friend of mine needs send me these samples by Fed ex or other service. It's for reseach and the samples dont have commercial value.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Hey, I'm going to Wheatley, Canada, from the US, fishing for the weekend, and I need to know how much fish we are allowed to take back into the US. We both have Canadian FULL liscenses and US restricted liscences. We plan on catching steelhead and walleye.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. The foods I want to put into my luggage may include:dried day lily, dried edible black fungus,dried mushroom, dried and preserved chinese mustard greens, shredded mustard
                                                                                                                                                                                                              tuber, jasmine tea, packed hotpot seasonings,chinese prickly ash, dried
                                                                                                                                                                                                              leomon slices for tea, dried chinese wolfberry,dried soybean, dried
                                                                                                                                                                                                              peanut kernel,packed seasonings of instant noodles, and thick
                                                                                                                                                                                                              sauce. Pls tell me if the US Customs allow these foods in without
                                                                                                                                                                                                              penalty/fine? If not, I will not pack them in.Thank you

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I'm going to Ireland in August. Want to bring food items: flour,sugar,artificial sweetner\creamer,coffee, etc. I'm assuming these will be ok in checked bags. My question is: Vacuum sealed meats ie. bacon/hotdogs/steak?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Brought all those items to England in 2000, but not sure what is ok now? We are renting a house in Letterkenny & would be wonderful not to instantly have to go grocery shopping! Any advice you can give will be much appreciated.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thank you
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Barb in Indiana

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Folks, "The Man" seems to have left Chowhound, and since we don't have any experts here to answer the questions that keep coming in, we're going to lock this thread.