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Jul 3, 2009 11:49 AM

What Foods Have You Brought in on an International Flight?

I've read of traveling Chowhounds bringing homemade kimchi or Bavarian sausage or Tunisian evoo back into the US, but in my own recent travels have never attempted to spirit back such preciously delicious perishables. Given customs protocol, I am certainly not asking for how-to advice -- but simply invite accounts of your past successes. Securely wrapped to prevent breakage / leakage / wafting aroma, certainly, but checked baggage vs. carry-on (vs., somehow, on one's person), declared vs. undeclared?

NB: I have perused the fascinating food-in-carry-ons thread -- -- but responses there 1) list items brought more than they detail method of bringing, and 2) pertain largely to domestic travel, whereas I'd love to hear specifically, and recently, international experiences.

Thanks & Happy Fourth!

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  1. Do you want advice on smuggling things in illegally? I don't think that's a proper topic for Chowhound. If you want to know what you can legally bring into the U.S., you've probably already come across that in your searchess. As long as it's legal, you can pack/carry items the same way you would on domestic flights.

    5 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I'm curious as to why you'd deem this question any less valid than the carry-on question, esp. as that thread has generated rampant lists of 'illegal' foodstuffs and this thread merely sets more specific parameters. I have not, in any case, found unambiguous information on these boards as to which foods are legal to bring in and which aren't. E.g., meats in various states of preservation. Outside of these boards, what information I've found is vague and also short of unambiguous. I thought that asking people with actual experience with bringing food in -- and thus those who've personally encountered assorted rules and exceptions in a way that clarify them better than curt written codes do -- would be useful. If you've a ready resource that responds to every aspect of this question and thus renders the question entirely useless, I'd be very grateful.

      1. re: sequins

        So ARE you talking about smuggling?

        If legal, then this government site will explain to you that there are NO hard and fast, unchanging rules because health issues arise and then subside. No person or government entity on this planet can respond to "every aspect" of your question. What was allowed or not yesterday might not be tomorrow. Any information you've found on these boards is generally anecdotal for that reason.

          1. re: sequins

            Hmmm. I guess I am the only one that does not give a fig about your motivations and am willing to answer.

            Several years back I went to Morocco and Tunisia and brought food back. I can tell you with full faith not to wrap anything delectible in or around any musk you might be bringing home from Morocco. EVERY LAST THING will smell like it and taste like it. Ditto that if you are bringing home a mexican blanket or sarape. No wrapping food in either of them.

            Me? I would just check with customs before you go and stick to what they say. Let me tell you after many arguments with customs that if they are in doubt about anything, they are seizing it. Beg and cry until you are a sopping mess and it will have no effect. Also, do not rely on what you knew from your last bit of travel. Rules change. I had sausage and prosciutto vac packed. and then my husband put it in his bag of dirties - I know ICK. Anyway, they seized it. I was young and foolish. I still think about that meat.

            Someone once told me they stuck piles of stinky cheese into their baby's diaper bag. OK She has told me that story so many times... not just once. I am easily amused.

            If you are clearing customs thru CA you can bet your sweet patooty they will be checking for fruit and live plants and will not be very nice to you if you plead ignorance.

            Finally, and if this does not sway you in these lean days, there is nothing that will... if you are caught smuggling stuff... you may very well be hit with a $50K fine for having the stones to do it. You can dispute it, but odds are, you will pay. Me? If I wanna gamble, I head for Vegas, sit in the air conditioning and throw down a few drinks for my trouble.

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              You know *I* agree with you. I declare everything, do my research in advance, etc. It's just not worth it. I've reached the tender age of 62 without becoming a felon. I'm no goodie-two-shoes, just chicken :)

        1. My two most memorable.........Bordeaux to Mexico City .......... half a wheel of sheep Pyrnees cheese and second-three large, beautiful, white truffles from Italy to La Guardia.........And I got through.
          The funniest traveling from Mexico into DFW with a serrano chile in my pocket and watching one of the beagle brigade go nuts trying to find it when I picked up my luggage.