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Crossing the US / Canada border with food. [split from Quebec]

[Note: This thread was split from the Quebec board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5446... ].

Baked goods over the border is not an issue. I ship and carry dozens of bagels across with no issues. Items like fruits and veggies, unpasteurized cheeses, and meats are prohibited as they have a tenancy to be carriers for parasites and pathogens.

Heading Into Canada, the restrictions are not as severe, but Canada customs restricts importation of dairy products, and will limit the number of Turkeys (yes Turkey) being brought in. I believe their concerns are more about protecting industry, although they will always confiscate produce to reduce the introduction of insects and parasites....Meat is usually no problem, but be careful about pet foods as certain animal fats used in pet food are restricted.

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  1. Smoked (beef) meat from Montreal is now permitted entry into the US. I brought a whole brisket from Schwartz's a month ago.

    Fruits and vegetables from Quebec are also allowed entry.

    Canadian poultry and fish is also permitted, but non-beef meat is more complicated. I believe game, lamb, and goat are still prohibited.

    The problem with fruits and vegetables arises if they originate outside of Canada. I think non-Quebec Canadian products are accepted, but I am not certain of that detail.

    All of this information is based on several conversations with US officials and personal experience crossing the border.

    Cheese is a bit more complicated since it is not an issue high on the US Customs radar. Technically speaking, raw milk cheese aged less than 60 days is prohibited.

    4 Replies
    1. re: VivreManger

      «The problem with fruits and vegetables arises if they originate outside of Canada. I think non-Quebec Canadian products are accepted, but I am not certain of that detail.»

      It's on a fruit-by-fruit basis. For example, all fresh citrus -- even US citrus imported into Canada -- is banned. If some enterprising Quebec greenhouse owner begins growing kumquats, they would be banned, too. As far as I know, there's currently non Canadian-grown fruit that's banned.

      «Cheese is a bit more complicated since it is not an issue high on the US Customs radar. Technically speaking, raw milk cheese aged less than 60 days is prohibited.»

      Have been told by US customs agents that all cheeses sold in Canada can be imported into the States. Of course, that was before the Quebec government's recent announcement that it will allow locally produced raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days to be sold in the province. www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story...

      «All of this information is based on several conversations with US officials and personal experience crossing the border.»

      Who are not always entirely consistent. There have been reports of travellers being pulled aside and questioned about Quebec-grown apples. It might not be a bad idea to bring along a printout of the relevant statutes or regulations.

      1. re: VivreManger

        «The problem with fruits and vegetables arises if they originate outside of Canada. I think non-Quebec Canadian products are accepted, but I am not certain of that detail.»

        It's on a fruit-by-fruit basis. For example, all fresh citrus -- even US citrus imported into Canada -- is banned. If some enterprising Quebec greenhouse owner were to begin growing, say, kumquats, they would be banned, too. As far as I know, there's currently no Canadian-grown fruit that's banned.

        «Cheese is a bit more complicated since it is not an issue high on the US Customs radar. Technically speaking, raw milk cheese aged less than 60 days is prohibited.»

        Have been told by US customs agents that all cheeses sold in Canada can be imported into the States. Of course, that was before the Quebec government's recent announcement that it will allow locally produced raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days to be sold in the province. www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story...

        «All of this information is based on several conversations with US officials and personal experience crossing the border.»

        Who are not always entirely consistent. There have been reports of travellers being pulled aside and questioned threateningly about Quebec-grown apples. If in doubt about a specific product, people can always call the US customs office at a Canadian airport and ask an agent. Even then, it might not be a bad idea to bring along a printout of the relevant statutes and regulations when crossing the border.

        1. re: carswell

          My husband hunts caribou in Quebec every year and has no problem bringing it back across the border. There is paperwork involved but it is all supplied by the camp he hunts out of. He said that even with the paperwork and the obviousness of what he is carrying (multiple coolers, equipment, antlers laid on top) he has always been waved through after the standard stop. No unpacking, no opening of coolers, etc.

          But, like another poster said, he was stopped back in the '90's when his hair was to his waist and thoroughly searched (car unloaded, seats removed, luggage opened and rifled through), when all he wanted to do was see the falls from the Canadian side while on vacation in upstate NY.

        2. re: VivreManger

          Is duck poultry or game? My sister has a friend who brings and prepared confit de canard whenever he visits. He is always relieved to have gotten it over the border OK. I think once he said he gave them a bottle of wine to look the other way.

          He also takes cases of WA wine back to BC with him and counts on losing a bottle per case to the customs agents. I'd be too nervous to try that!

        3. "Baked goods over the border is not an issue".

          Is this true even for home-baked goods entering the U.S. from Canada?

          1 Reply
          1. re: souschef

            We tried to mail home made cookies to my SIL in Florida and were told this was not allowed.

          2. This link should help anyone returning to the country

            http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/publications/pu...

            1. When I lived in Dearborn, MI, I would shop weekly in the Windsor, ON Public Market and bring back a variety of foodstuffs.

              Sicne I was doing this frequently, I would contact customs occasionally to determine which items were "on their list" of prohibited items. Most of the customs inspectors were very helpful and woudl let me know what I could not bring back. Most Ontario produce, meats, etc., could be brought back.

              1. We bring food stuffs back and forth across the boarder all the time. We don't bother to tell them what we have. If they ask what's in the cooler we'll say it's sandwiches and other nibblies. If they ask if there is any fruit (There usually isn't) we say "no."

                "Okay, enjoy your visit."

                DT

                3 Replies
                1. re: Davwud

                  >>We bring food stuffs back and forth across the boarder all the time. We don't bother to tell them what we have.<<

                  And if they pull you over and find out that you have lied to the customs agent, plan to spend a couple of hour explaining.

                  I have seen people lose coolers full of salmon and other fish because they felt it was too much of a bother to declare what they are importing.

                  1. re: jlawrence01

                    You don't really lie.
                    We cross the boarder a number of times a year. The trick is to not offer much information that's not asked for. Keep the answers short and as vague as possible without looking vague.
                    The only time we've been pulled over was when I had the amount of alcohol we could bring back wrong and I told them more that we should've had.

                    DT

                    1. re: Davwud

                      With a cabin in Canada, we're regular border crossers, too - at least 15 trips a year. We almost always bring food, especially home baked goods, and we've never had any trouble. I haven't been pulled over in years, but when I was (with my long-haired, hippy-looking hubby as young-20-somethings), we hadn't declared any alcohol, so they made us re-adjust our stated amount and let us through. No one said anything about the blueberries we were carrying back.

                      So I think it's best practice to answer their questions as straightforward as possible. "Anything to declare? Just some food for personal consumption", will get you through fine.

                2. Thanks for the thread - what a good question!

                  I'm glad that posters here have not been stopped or had trouble, but I don't know if I'd advise other people to "not exactly lie" to border patrol agents. I think saying, as the poster below suggests, "just some food for personal consumption" is reasonable.
                  The worst suggestion I've heard in a long time is to hint that offering a customs official some alcohol in exchange for looking the other way could be effective.

                  It's one thing to be unsure about regulations, it's quite another to knowingly conceal something that you know isn't allowed. YMMV, but I just don't think anyone should be advising posters to break the law.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sophie fox

                    I agree - my policy has always been to disclose, and it usually works out fine.