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Bringing cheese back home

naughtyb Jan 30, 2012 06:27 PM

Is it possible to bring cheese back home with me to the US? I thought that some of the good stuff was not permitted through customs. I would hate to buy a lot of great cheese and have to either through it away or have an impromptu picnic at the airport? Thanks for all the info.

  1. t
    tortoiseshell Oct 31, 2012 07:52 AM

    I regularly take back cheese (to the U.S.). Only once did customs ask about the cheese and for good measure they x-rayed it to make sure there wasn't any liquid type cheeses.

    https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/deta...

    "-Cheese- Solid cheese (hard or semi-soft, that does not contain meat); butter, butter oil, and cultured milk products such as yogurt and sour cream are not restricted. Feta cheese, Brie, Camembert, cheese in brine, Mozzarella and Buffalo Mozzarella are permissible (USDA Animal Product Manual, Table 3-14-6). Cheese in liquid (such as cottage cheese or ricotta cheese) and cheese that pours like heavy cream are not admissible from countries affected by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Cheese containing meat is not admissible depending on the country of origin."

    2 Replies
    1. re: tortoiseshell
      mangeur Oct 31, 2012 09:06 AM

      I think that what JT objects to inserting another issue into his do-it-yourself-at-a-kiosk Global Entry passport control . I don't know how the procedure would work, but I guess that if he enters that he has no food, he whisks through. But that if he mentions that he is carrying food, he then has to wait for a human inspector to check out the legality of his cargo.

      (FWIW, we used to face long lines with our United Flights, but since switching to Air France, there seems to be no other international flights landing in our timeslot and we are literally the only people going through customs, often in the first 10 through.)

      1. re: mangeur
        John Talbott Oct 31, 2012 10:28 AM

        " I guess that if he enters that he has no food, he whisks through. But that if he mentions that he is carrying food, he then has to wait for a human inspector to check out the legality of his cargo." You guess correctly; I love breezing thru.

    2. mangeur Oct 29, 2012 09:49 AM

      This is in no way an endorsement for our behavior. That said, my husband is at this moment tucking into a square of maroilles that he bought from Dubois in September. It came home in our checked luggage and has been in our refrigerator since. It is STINKY, and while the flavor is strong it is mellow on the tongue. (Just don't walk into the kitchen unprepared!)

      We are not timid about what we bring home and have never lost a piece of cheese to improper handling.

      6 Replies
      1. re: mangeur
        John Talbott Oct 29, 2012 02:19 PM

        I respect and love you all, but I've decided that I don't want to lose my Global Entry/Trusted Traveler priviliges and have stopped carrying cheese, even if 90 days aged, foie gras and anything else those little cute sniffer dogs might find and I have survived.
        Chicken?, Guilty; Spineless?; Guilty; Anxious?: no longer.

        1. re: John Talbott
          mangeur Oct 29, 2012 03:10 PM

          John, we declare EVERYTHING! There has never been a question. Now if you are worrying about losing 60 seconds in the event that you are referred to the "A" line, I have to ask "why"? You show your entry worksheet, he says "No meat?" "No sir, no meat?" "Welcome home!" That's all. For us, a paltry trade off for a month or so of Dubois treasure. FWIW, this has been true at Dulles, O'Hare and SFO.

          Oh, last time at SFO the agent did ask about pate, qualifying it with "containing pork". So I asked him about foie gras. No problem, he says, just so long as its not anything with pork. (Sept. 2012)

          1. re: mangeur
            John Talbott Oct 29, 2012 03:16 PM

            Margaret: - I don't want to get into WWIII here but the last time Colette declared cheese it took her 20 minutes to clear.
            She no longer does it.
            As I say I'm clearly chicken.

            1. re: John Talbott
              mangeur Oct 29, 2012 04:16 PM

              No kindling here, John. With Colette's experience, I would do the same as you. Pity.

              1. re: mangeur
                Jake Dear Oct 29, 2012 08:47 PM

                We too declare everything -- butters, cheeses, chataigne flour, etc -- and have never had a probem returning at SFO. In late Sept, we were indeed diverted to the "A" line for futher inspection because the little sniffy beagle caught my wife inadvertently smuggling an apple that she forgot to eat on the plane. Even with this suspicious behavior, we showed our form, averred that we had no pork, and then we were swiftly sent on our way. We have butter to last another month or so, and are just now finishing the third comte from Dubois. -- Jake

          2. re: John Talbott
            n
            Nancy S. Oct 29, 2012 04:45 PM

            Same! I love my Global Entry status!

        2. r
          rswatkins Jan 31, 2012 10:36 AM

          This is an area of total confusion, both for travellers and those enforcing the regulations. Here's what it says on the U.S. Customs website:

          "Cheese- Solid cheese (hard or semi-soft, that does not contain meat); butter, butter oil, and cultured milk products such as yogurt and sour cream are not restricted. Feta cheese, Brie, Camembert, cheese in brine, Mozzarella and Buffalo Mozzarella are permissible (USDA Animal Product Manual, Table 3-14-6). Cheese in liquid (such as cottage cheese or ricotta cheese) and cheese that pours like heavy cream are not admissible from countries affected by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Cheese containing meat is not admissible depending on the country of origin."

          This doesn't mean that you won't encounter an agent who doesn't understand the rules. My experience is that if you make it clear that the cheese is for personal use and not resale, they'll let just about anything through.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rswatkins
            Busk Jan 31, 2012 05:48 PM

            yup. The USDA website doesn't count for much as the APHIS (Animal and plant health inspection service) agents have discretion to confiscate whatever they feel like. Its their call.

            1. re: Busk
              b
              Bigos Feb 1, 2012 01:16 AM

              Correct. And the fact that it was purchased in the duty-free area is also meaningless. Some airports are just more relaxed about it than others. Recently upon landing in San Francisco we were treated to a search by a little friendly beagle who exitedly denounced us for
              "smuggling" a half eaten sandwich from the plane. As we all know, those sandwiches pose no threat to any agrucultural commodities, only to our own health. But the beagle didn't listen and sent us for more thorough search of our checked luggage. Goood doooog!

              1. re: Bigos
                PhilD Feb 1, 2012 02:28 AM

                No threat from the sandwich? Who knows: the Californian citrus industry could be devastated if somone imported a fruit fly, the US dairy industry could suffer from an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease from raw milk products (i.e. unpasteurised cheese). The agents will use their discretion to let a lot of things in because they understand what presents a risk, you may have overlooked the sandwich but what if you also overlooked an orange?

                My advice with any food is:

                1. Always declare it on the customs form - better to be questioned than be caught out by the dog or xray. In some countries they will confiscate and fine for non- declaration even though the food was actually OK to bring in.

                2. Always pack it in the hold luggage as every airport security seems to be different. If you pack it in hand luggage you risk losing it at security. An note some countries double screen for high risk destinations like the US so if you buy duty free it may still be confiscated at a second check on the ramp (does France do this?)

                3. Get it vacumn packed - it last longer when not refrigerated and whilst vacumn packing isn't perfect it is better than the degregation you getfrom keeping it too warm for 24 hours whilt you travel. All decent shops in Paris do this.

                4. Read the latest customs or APHIS advice on the web. It changes frequently. If France has an outbreak of disease like Foot and Mouth or CJD the regulations will tighten up and it is best to be forwarned so you don't lose your precious imports.

          2. PBSF Jan 31, 2012 09:59 AM

            The official US Customs Regulation regarding to cheeses that are made with raw milk and NOT aged over 60 days are prohibited. How it is enforced depends on the customs official and the airport. From my experiences and others, they are lax in enforcing it as long it is not a large amount. It is their right to confiscate it or if one does not declare it, a possible fine. I just write 'food' on the customers form but say cheeses if I am ask what type of food; lying is not in my cards. The customs regulation has nothing to do with vacuum packaging.

            3 Replies
            1. re: PBSF
              naughtyb Jan 31, 2012 10:25 AM

              I definitely agree with you. I don't want to get in trouble over having cheese in my luggage! Thanks for the info.

              1. re: naughtyb
                mangeur Jan 31, 2012 11:31 AM

                It is not cheese in your checked luggage that will get you in trouble but cheese in your carry-on.

                1. re: mangeur
                  sunshine842 Jan 31, 2012 12:14 PM

                  ...bought mine in the duty-free -- so after security -- and had no connecting flight.

            2. mangeur Jan 31, 2012 09:29 AM

              Back to square one, one can bring in any cheese that is aged over 60 days. One should put cheese in checked luggage so that security agents do not classify it as a paste or gel.

              How to wrap or vacuum seal, etc is a separate question that relates to maintaining cheese quality rather than airline security check..

              1 Reply
              1. re: mangeur
                naughtyb Jan 31, 2012 10:26 AM

                Thanks. Much appreciated.

              2. Delucacheesemonger Jan 31, 2012 09:27 AM

                Check http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/824673

                1 Reply
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                  naughtyb Jan 31, 2012 10:35 AM

                  Thanks for the link. Good stuff there!!

                2. sunshine842 Jan 31, 2012 05:05 AM

                  I bought Brie at the airport (sacrilege, I know, but I was too busy to get to the fromager before I left) -- it was actually quite good...but if you can get it vacuum packed, do. By the time I got to Miami, my carryon had a pretty good funk going. (but my friend LOVED the cheese)

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842
                    naughtyb Jan 31, 2012 08:39 AM

                    So I assume that as long as it is vacuum packed, it is fine? Does that include the unpasteurized goodness as well? I saw a television show where a chef actually had to "smuggle" cheese from France back on the plane and did so in his child's diapers. He wrapped them up as if they were used.
                    This is the reason why I ask. Sorry if I have offended anyone for not sifting through the apparent multitudes of information that are readily available. I just thought some people with similar interests as myself, wouldn't mind divulging some information on the topic.
                    Thanks Sunshine, for your help.

                    1. re: naughtyb
                      sunshine842 Jan 31, 2012 08:44 AM

                      Mine wasn't even vacuum packed, nor was it unpasteurized -- nor did customs so much as raise an eyebrow in my direction.

                      The television show was played for effect, and any resemblance to actual facts or necessity is unintentional.

                      http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vac...

                      1. re: sunshine842
                        naughtyb Jan 31, 2012 09:24 AM

                        Sunshine, I appreciate your response. The show was Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and can assure you it was quite accurate. So the cheese you brought back wasn't vacuum sealed and wasn't pasteurized and no one said anything? Is this a normal thing or did you slide by?
                        Was it in your carry on? It was found by a customs agent and he didn't care? I really thought that that type of cheese is illegal in the US.
                        Thanks.

                        1. re: naughtyb
                          sunshine842 Jan 31, 2012 10:53 AM

                          Unpasteurized, not vacuum packed, declared on the customs form, and ignored.

                          Now -- it was one wedge of Brie and a small round of Camembert -- very obviously only enough for personal consumption, wrapped in aluminum foil and wrapped in the plastic bag from the duty-free shop, along with the receipt.

                          YMMV -- you could take the same wedge of cheese through the same airport 50 times and never have the same outcome twice.

                          My recommendation for vacuum packing is simply because it stinks. A lot. It affects the legality or lack thereof not a whit.

                          (and much as I like Bourdain, I don't for a second believe that a scene like that wasn't played out specially for the cameras, including multiple takes when somebody dropped the diaper)

                          The golden rule is to declare it -- then the worst that can happen is they take it and toss it in the trash -- if you don't declare, then they can smack you with non-declaration AND toss it in the trash.

                          The bottom line is that you pays your money and you takes your chances -- no matter what the legality is, no matter what the guideline is -- it all comes down to how pissy that customs agent is that day. If you don't want to risk having it confiscated, don't buy it.

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