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Jan 30, 2012 06:27 PM

Bringing cheese back home

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.

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    1. 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

        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

          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.

          1. re: sunshine842

            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.

            1. re: naughtyb

              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.

        1. 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. 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

              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

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

                1. re: mangeur

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