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Jan 2, 2010 07:44 AM

Bringing food from italy through US customs

I'll be flying from Italy to the US soon, arriving in Boston from Heathrow, and will have the following:

boar salami (vaccuum packed)
small bottle of anchovy sauce and marinated anchovies from Cetara
olive oil
a couple pounds of dried beans and farro

Will I have any trouble bringing this in? do I declare it or not? All advice appreciated.

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  1. Customs officials can seize ANY items they interpret to be prohibited, and you basically have no recourse. They destroy the stuff, and may give you a serious fine. Whether you want to risk that is your business.

    I travel from Italy to the US all the time, so here's what I do to avoid problems:
    1) Declare everything on your customs form. Make a detailed list in language anyone can understand, for example write "dried farro grain". The idea is to let customs know you are aware of regulations and that if they open your bag they will find exactly what you've written, nothing sneaky. Use words like "preserved", "canned", "dried" to communicate that you have no fresh foods.
    2) Carry no meats, cured or otherwise, because they are prohibited. Your boar sausage is a definite no. If you're thinking of risking it, consider whether the beagles will ignore the smell of boar, even the faintest bit transferred to the outside of a vacuum pack.
    See the full list of prohibited items at:

    2) no fresh fruits or produce
    3) no fresh cheeses. Designate how many months aged on your customs form. I believe the limit is 6 months. If the cheese is not labled customs may or may not believe your estimate of age.

    Your oil, anchovies and sauce, dried beans and farro should be fine. I hypothetically may have brought salami into the US at some point, it is possible, but that would not have been in the current airport security climate. And again, it is a risk and you should inform yourself and evaluate for yourself if it is one you want to take.

    A final note: be very careful with oil and liquids in checked baggage, the pressure changes, extreme temperatures and rough handling make it really difficult to be secure that they will not leave you with a bag full of greasy fishy clothes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ciccia bomba

      Excellent advice, especially about the adjectives. Definitely forget the boar salami.

    2. You have received good advice from Ciccia. One thing I would like to point out and that many people do not realize is that it makes no difference to Customs/Ag if your meat or cheese is vaccum packed. Vacuum packing may cut down on the aroma emitted by the item but if an item is not legal to import, whether or not you have it vacuum packed will make no difference.

      You an certainly bring in the beans and farro, but even when i declared "dried beans" on my form upon returning, I was questioned by the customs guy.

      Having had a glass jar of tuna break in my luggage a few years ago, I also advise you to take care with the colatura/garum and the oil. I would pack in bubble wrap.

      1 Reply
      1. re: erica

        when we came in in November we declared and brought our kitchen leftovers including a piece of boar salami and cheese as well as some shrink wrapped aged pecorino . they just waved us through, one of several times we have been successful with this - we brought back a half used piece of guanciale on another occasion.. Hewever on other occasions they confiscated a ham sandwich and a whole salame. So there is no consistency. whatever you do do not try to sneak prohib stuff in - its simply not worth it. You ought to at least sample your salami before returning!

      2. The most important advice is to "declare" everything. That way, even if customs officials inspect, the worst is that they will confiscate prohibited items. If they find prohibited items that have not declared, it leads to a fine also. From my experience, they are most strict on meat of any form and fresh produce. I have not had problem with cheeses, even raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days. Anchovies, olive oil, dried beans are ok.

        1. just a food history side note, one hypothesis on the origins of the salami-inside-caciocavallo type cheeses (more common in Italo-American shops than in Italy in my experience) is that it was devised as a way to smuggle meats inside cheese, that is, a suspect product likely to be confiscated inside an innocuous one.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ciccia bomba

            have I missed something? Ive never noticed salami-inside-caciocavallo type cheeses here in Brooklyn. We bought little, fresh versions of such cheese in local shops in Naples last fall - little eggs of provola stuffed with chopped olives, prosciutto or salami. They were made in Agerola and very tasty.

          2. I might worry about the anchovy sauce (3 ounce rule?) in carry on. If you check it, it should be ok.