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Bringing food into Mexico

Traveling to Cancun with children for Yeshiva week. Will have an apartment with kitchen facilities. Heard that meat with a USDA stamp is ok but in previous trips to Mexico, our meat was confiscated but the poultry was allowed.

Anyone been lately? What was your experience? Did it make a difference if meat was raw or cooked (e.g., frozen meatballs in sauce)?

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  1. The beef is iffy I think. According to the Chabad site only poultry:

    http://www.jewishcancun.com/templates...

    5 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      I'm going on the 18th and have spoken to a number of folks. One had two boxes of prepacked Noah's Ark food confiscated. I was told prepacked chicken/turkey deli (Costco Meal Mart packets) is OK, and you may be able to get away with the prepacked pastrami and corned beef.

      I think you can get away with it - my daughter last year took a couple of London broils and was OK, but don't invest a huge amount of money, otherwise you run the risk of getting it confiscated.

      I traded e mails on the weekend with the Chabad Rabbi who is still not sure if he is providing Shabbat meals the weekend of the 20th or not as his wife is due imminently, and told me to check next week. They are having services at the Avalon Grand Hotel which is on the strip. It's a schlep as I am at the Westin down the other end of the strip, but if they have meals, I may consider staying there for one night.

      If you check the link that ferret provides above you can see what food you find at Walmart and Costco. My plan is to bring some Turkey, Cheese, Bread, Tuna, and then wing it from there with what I can find at the Walmart. Will also bring a Sandwich maker.

      1. re: njkosher

        we are also going to westin during the yeshiva week but arriving Sunday h and regularly emailing the chabad rav. feel free to email me to share info. sbesq@hotmail.com

        1. re: shimby

          You do realize that njkosher's posts about going to Mexico were from a year ago, don't you?

          1. re: queenscook

            Sorry, missed the Jan 8 post otherwise I would have replied sooner. Yep was a year ago, but I think there has been enough additional info for this year to help you out. I would try and get the Rabbi's cell number so that you can reach him as last year, things were a little fluid.

      2. re: ferret

        If you are travelling to Mexico, check the website www.senasica.gob.mx: these pages specifically:

        http://www.senasica.gob.mx/?id=3697 permitted items
        http://www.senasica.gob.mx/?id=5100 regulated items

        *There is an allowance for fresh, refrigerated and frozen beef and poultry products through Jan 15th. See my message below. You may contact the Senasica office for possible special considerations after that date.

      3. Contact the Chief Rabbi of Mexico and see if he can get you a permit/letter to bring the food in.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mamaleh

          Interesting idea but I'd be afraid that the line worker in customs would not follow the letter and would confiscate my stuff nonetheless... I think my kids will have to live without meat unless I bring meatballs and try to convince customs that they are chicken.

          1. re: daphnar

            Red meat and meat products is on Mexico's list of Regulated Products, not on the list of Not Permitted products see http://www.sagarpa.gob.mx/saladeprens...

            I'm not an advocate of red meat consumption, but if it is worth your time, you might be able to send them an e-mail and get permission ahead of time to bring it in so it is not up to the discretion of the line workers
            contacto@senasica.gob.mx

        2. Maybe if you get the meat packed in vaccuum sealed plastic, as many butchers now offer, you'/ll have an easier time getting it in.

          1. You are correct. USDA stamps on packaged poultry items are allowed, but regulated. No beef items are allowed into Mexico, not even if they are vaccuum sealed or frozen. You are not allowed to bring any homemade food items such as meatballs.
            There is a Walmart and a Costco which import items from the US which you can go to for all your food items such as meat, dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables.

            Have a wonderful trip and try to avoid problems by considering doing your shopping when you arrive locally.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ALinPV

              Generally, outside of neighborhoods with kosher-keeping communities, it's nearly impossible to find kosher meat, worldwide. While the average person might be able to stock up once they got to Cancun, the OP can't - they need to bring meat, or go vegetarian for the week.

            2. You have a 90% chance of getting the green light when you press the button at the customs station at the Cancun airport, so a bit of a gamble but an acceptable risk, IMO.

              1. I work in the SENASICA office. The current allowance is valid through January 15. FROM THE USA:
                Chicken, turkey and poultry - fresh, frozen, pre-cooked, smoked from USA - 3 pieces per family
                Beef BONELESS - up to 10 kgs.

                ALL MEAT and POULTRY must be packaged in original vacuum sealed package from processing plant with label and USDA seal. It cannot be purchased in Walmart in saran wrap with a butcher sticker on it for example.

                Also, although it is most likely to get a green light, if you do not declare they will be more inclined to confiscate. If you declare, they will inspect your meat for any visible risk and unless it is in a ziploc package or saran wrap packaging, will most likely let it through.

                1. Update a year later. Entered Mexico yesterday in Mazatlan. Brought Meal Mart Amazing Meals/chicken. Was told that meat or chicken with a USDA plant # on the label IS allowed.
                  I'll forgo commenting on the quality of these boxed meals.

                  1. What's Yeshiva week ?

                    Are there not any kosher restuarants down there ?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kevin

                      Jewish schools are generally off for a week in the middle of the school year rather than in the Christmas-New Year period. Usually, that's one of the last two weeks of January. (On the plus side, travel is much cheaper then, and places are less crowded, but on the downside, parents need to take more vacation time as there aren't the built-in days off from work.) Within the Orthodox community, this period is referred to as 'Yeshiva week,' Yeshiva being the term for a Jewish religious school.

                      Outside of Mexico City, no, there aren't kosher restaurants down there, or really in most vacation destinations.

                      1. re: kevin

                        I am here currently. The Costco here has a surprising amount of kosher food. Also, call Harry's restaurant to see if they still have kosher meat. They used to have a whole section of their menu that had kosher steaks.
                        Now if only there was sunshine!

                      2. We just returned from Mexico and were stopped at customs and all our meat and poultry was confiscated. Everyone must put all their luggage through a scanner which I presume checks for organic material. Our meat was from Costco and properly packaged and stamped. You are not allowed to bring it in without a permit. Whether you declare or not will make no difference. The people behind us had there luggage searched and found to have a banana which is not permitted. Many items are permitted but certainly not meat or poultry or it seems fresh fruit.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: gsquaredb

                          We also just returned from Mexico and took with us several items from costco. We had 3 2-pound turkey coldcut packs, and 2 -2pound packs of both Pastrami and Cornedbeef. In addition we had packs of Turkey hotdogs and 2 of the mealmart brisket packs (awesome by the way). I didnt declare any of it but our luggage was searched anyway. The agent took all of it and i explained that all was prepackaged from the store (not home-made) and all had the USDA stamp on it and was sealed (i showed the stamp). She took all of it to a side office to show her supervisor. I followed her to explain the same to the supervisor if need be. she returned after 5-10 minutes and said all was OK and returned the items to our luggage and let us take it in. I knew from this blog that the turkey should be ok, but wasnt sure about the beef meats. Did i just get lucky?

                          oh, also my wife had fresh fruit and meat sandwiches for lunch on the plane and a block of american cheese. they never checked the carry-on bags.

                          1. re: shimby

                            That is interesting. We spoke with the supervisor at length and they seemed clear about what was allowed and in fact produced a brochure with the official regs listed. We later related our story to some Mexican people we met with and they confirmed our experience.

                            The only thing I can think of is that we were bringing in uncooked meat and yours was already processed.

                            BTW this was in Mexico City. Where did you fly?

                            1. re: gsquaredb

                              we flew to Cancun via United out of Newark

                              1. re: shimby

                                I highly doubt it would make a difference, but is it possible the folks in Cancun are just more prepared for people bringing in stuff since its a resort vs. Mexico City?

                                One more option that might work is that if you are flying into Mexico City, ordering meat from one of the butchers there and picking up before heading to where you are going. I know last year, there was a group of 5 families from Long Island that had meat shipped to Cancun from Mexico City and they got it when they arrived.

                        2. I brought some Amazing Meals with me and showed the inspector the USDA stamp on the package & was told it was acceptable. Seems like it is more a matter of who checks you than actual policy. Also brought munster cheese in the original packaging and that was permitted.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Mashgiach

                            On the return trip I tried taking an unopened can of tuna in my carry-on & once again it was confiscated at security because the tuna is packed in a liquid. I thought it was a qwirky inspector in Guadalajara, but I just got nailed in Mazatlan.

                          2. I just flew into Mexico and brought Jack's Gourmet corned beef and a meat Amazing Meal. I declared the food and told the Inspector I had precooked USDA packaged meat in the original packaging. They asked if anything was fresh. I said "no" and they said "pase" (pass/go).

                            1. Please check the following for the latest in food import regulation to Mexico. IT IS ALWAYS CHANGING. Www.senasica.gob.mx/?id=622 Go to the regulated products PDF documenta and print when travelling. This is current legal leislation that determines what is acceptable in Mexico at the date of your trip. Happy travels!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ALinPV

                                I'm traveling to Puerto Vaillarta and want to bring frozen Kosher chicken. Am I allowed to do that? If so, do I need to pack it in my carry-on or in my suitcase? Thank you - Susan