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Tips for bringing back cheese, chorizo, on long flights?

french cheese Jan 20, 2009 12:20 PM

Hi everyone,

I've read some really interesting posts on the types of foods people have brought through airport security, but I can't seem to find any posts detailing how to keep these foods fresh.

Could any of you could provide tips on traveling with cheeses, chorizo, or hams? How long will these items last? What if you don't have a cooler?

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  1. k
    kobetobiko Jan 20, 2009 12:25 PM

    It is illegal to bring back meat products, so chorizo and ham are out of the questions.

    As for cheese, you can bring hard cheese or any non-fresh cheese (so nothing that is in salt water or fresh goat cheese, etc.). So for hard cheese you can simply wrap them in wax paper. They will last for the whole day of flight.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko
      c oliver Jan 20, 2009 12:38 PM

      Are you assuming OP is talking about international flights? If domestic, there's no problem to my knowledge. We bring all sorts of things back from NYC when we go there.

      1. re: kobetobiko
        french cheese Jan 20, 2009 01:09 PM

        I should have been more specific--tips on laws are appreciated, but the question is more focused on how well these sorts of food keep.

      2. Veggo Jan 20, 2009 12:30 PM

        1) Why not have a small cooler? I have several, and I can't imagine life without them.
        2) Depending on your points "A" to "B", it may be subject to confiscation on incoming international flights. Find out first.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Veggo
          Veggo Jan 20, 2009 12:51 PM

          To c oliver's point, exactly correct. You mentioned "long" flights, so I assume mostly international. You can have a moveable feast on international flights with every sort of food that is illegal at your destination, provided that you consume it all on the airplane.
          Nice way to stretch your trip for a few hours.

        2. Phoo_d Jan 20, 2009 01:22 PM

          I've wrapped rib eye steaks in an insulated cold bag with frozen ice packs and successfully flown for about 7 hours with them - when including driving time they were out of the fridge for about 10 hours total. The TSA raised some eyebrows when they saw the package go through, but said that as long as the cold packs were frozen solid it was okay. I would not use the gel type cold packs as I think these wouldn't make it past security regardless of the frozen state.

          1. kchurchill5 Jan 20, 2009 02:01 PM

            I have a small carry on that has an insulated compartment, I love it.. Don't use the gel ice. There are some you can buy (more expensive that last much longer (designed for camping and other uses. A few airports questioned them however and even delayed me where I missed a flight once. I stick to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which I froze and by the time I flew it was ok. Last time I checked ... that was ok. I just take anything on anymore due to the amount of regulations. That may sound odd, but I just want to get through security as quick as possible. Other than a watch and 1 ring I don't wear anything anymore. I missed 2 flights and several close ones just because of security when it was absolutely nothing. Just for a laugh, I had bought a small windchime for my friends we were visiting. A beautiful woodstock chime for their hummingbirds outside their home. Well I had wrapped it with a bow so I didn't want it in my suitcase ... Bad mistake. They unwrapped it and tore it apart, they thought it was a gun. It even had the original tag on it. I missed my flight and they refused to pay for the 75 dollar chime they desroyed. I learned, lol.

            1. Veggo Jan 20, 2009 02:17 PM

              My small coolers, carry-on size, are 4.7 liters and 8.5 liters. The third large one must be stowed. I start with frozen gel-pacs, which are confiscated at customs. But the valuables have a good running cold start in an insulated box. I bring large, empty Zip-Loc bags if I have to ask flight attendants for a little help with a little ice. I have never been denied, although I try to be self-sufficient. If your cargo is legal, transportation is not a problem. What is surprising is what is not legal to import, between countries. That you can learn, beforehand.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Veggo
                c oliver Jan 20, 2009 02:36 PM

                I read from a government source recently that the regulations for carrying on liquids are going to be greatly relaxed sometime this year. It was no more specific than that but it sounded quite definite. We used to carry our soft-sided cooler all the time as a piece of carryon. I like your idea of the gel-pacs and just letting them be confiscated, V.

                1. re: Veggo
                  Veggo Jan 20, 2009 09:14 PM

                  To clarify, the frozen gel-packs are confiscated by TSA on the front end, before the flight, only in carry on luggage. Gel- packs on checked luggage pass through, although I have had a few pieces of luggage really torn apart, namely my big cooler. I include a roll of duct tape and instructions to please re-seal my cooler, in my cooler on top of the contents. The yellow and black TSA tape is a problem you don't want to deal with at customs, even when you are exactly in the right.

                  1. re: Veggo
                    LisaN Jan 28, 2009 08:10 PM

                    Sometimes vendors at the airport will give you some ice if you ask nice, or buy a little something.

                  2. h
                    Harters Jan 20, 2009 02:39 PM

                    As others have said, much depends on which country you're flying into and how long the flight is.

                    Your mention of chorizo and your username suggest you might be picking up goods in Europe and, from your posting history, taking them to America. I don't know what your import regulations are there but, thinking about a flight the other way, we don't have any regulations banning food imports for north America but I wouldnt fly cheese that long. And I'm certainly not going to take up extra weight using a cooler. Chorizo would travel fine - it's designed to be stored without refrigeration.

                    1. Sam Fujisaka Jan 20, 2009 03:05 PM

                      I pack hard cheeses and chorizo or other cured meats or fish in my check-in suitcase to bring back to Colombia from all over the planet. Transit through Miami and LA is always a problem in terms of confiscation. Never have a problem with spoilage. Big wedges of Parm Reg and Pec Romano from Italy will sweat a bit. Just wipe before storing at home.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        babette feasts Jan 20, 2009 05:07 PM

                        Heck, my mother MAILED me some salamis and parmesan, still edible after being lost in the mail for 10 weeks! OK, so the parm was a bit moldy on one end, but the salamis are fine. If the cheese or meat has been aging at cave temperature for several months, a day or two without refrigeration is not going to hurt it.

                        1. re: babette feasts
                          Sam Fujisaka Jan 20, 2009 06:38 PM

                          Mmmm ... emadashi using Parm!

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            Veggo Jan 20, 2009 08:20 PM

                            I keep camenberts and bries on the counter for days, on plates under glass covers. The hard cheeses, pecorino romanos and parmigianos, sweat a little after a couple days. Most cheeses are quite resilient, and taste better unchilled. Blues, including stiltons, likewise.
                            At a minimum, they can circumnavigate the planet in a Greyhound bus and be quite edible. I don't know about most goat or sheep cheeses, but I think Humboldt Fog could handle a bus ride, too. Biggest problem is the ocean.

                            As for meat products, yoyo. (Ya on ya own)

                      2. hill food Jan 20, 2009 11:35 PM

                        yeah I wouldn't worry about the freshness - the whole point of most cheese and sausage is durability.

                        planes are so darn cold in the passenger area and in checked luggage it's freezing. heck at this time of year things shipped ground will rarely get above freezing if you're not in USDA zones 10+.

                        but do voluntarily refrain from anything that could be bio-invasive.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hill food
                          jeni1002 Jan 21, 2009 08:00 PM

                          Good point about the temperature in the cargo - I always have a separate food bag that I check in - mostly hard cheeses, sweets, but an occasional yogurt may have sneaked in as well. I typically add a water bottle that I freeze the night before.

                        2. f
                          french cheese Jan 21, 2009 12:25 PM

                          Thanks for the detailed replies everyone! Every time I've gone to Europe, I've just eaten it there, never attempting to bring it back on my long layovers! Next time, i'm going for it!

                          1. a
                            Arras Jan 22, 2009 04:48 PM

                            I've flown to and from France at least 10 times...each return flight has been met by the USDA beagle patrol....and I have seen many passengers stopped and their luggage searched for prohibited items....I usually bring back wine and candy and I declare it. I was picked to have my luggage scanned once...rest of the time just waved through. I wouldn't advise trying to bring anything into LAX unless it's so sealed (double & triple) as to have no odor...AND make certain once the item is packaged, wash the package so there's no residual odor on it.
                            Check out: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/prohibited_restricted.xml
                            also: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacatio...
                            The USDA takes its work seriously and is not very friendly to people who break the rules...if you are caught, it will go on your passport record, so you would probably be checked every subsequent trip...
                            Have a good visit!

                            If you want to see what the restrictions are, check out

                            1. r
                              rosepoint Jan 24, 2009 04:07 AM


                              I agree with your post. We go to Europe at least once a year and bring back bags full of wine, olive oil, candy, aged cheese, and other items that are LEGAL to bring back to the US. The beagle patrol is almost always at our airport when we get off our flight. I've been told that when they find some illegal food they then may take all the food you have brought back legal or otherwise.

                              BTW, I have had at least 7 beagles, I've owned them my whole life, and wrapping a nice smelly ham, chorizo, or salami in a few layers of plastic wrap WILL NOT prevent a beagle from smelling them.

                              We love the hams, salamis and other meat products in Europe but we can get many imported meats in the US now, there are great artisinal salamis produced here also so why risk having US Customs following you around at the airport the rest of your life?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: rosepoint
                                c oliver Jan 24, 2009 07:00 AM

                                When you say "bags full" I assume you're talking suitcases, right? As the 3 oz. rule is still in effect. Hopefully when they change it, they'll up it to a litre. Fingers crossed.

                                1. re: c oliver
                                  rosepoint Jan 28, 2009 07:15 AM

                                  Yes, suitcases full. We brought back a case of wine from France last year in our suitcases (wines from small producers we cannot find in the states). All wine was claimed to Customs but they didn't bother charging us the taxes on the 10 bottles we were over our duty free limit.

                                  I hope TSA relaxes the liquids rule soon. I remember coming back from Provence many years ago with bottles of Champagne in my carry on bag and not having to worry about any breakage in my checked luggage.

                                  1. re: rosepoint
                                    c oliver Jan 28, 2009 08:02 PM

                                    I SO agree. It was so easy to just carry on the wines.

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