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May 22, 2012 04:27 AM

Taking Food From Italy into the US (Customs?)

Hey, everyone! I'm currently studying abroad for a semester in Italy (I'm a sophomore in high school) with the American Field Service (AFS) and I'm going back to the US in a few weeks. Anyway, I was wondering if anyone knew what kind of foods you're allowed to bring through customs, and if it was better to but food in carryons or in checked luggage?

For the most part, I was thinking packaged/snack foods, like taralli and cornetti and cheese and . . . well, everything like that. But then I was also curious about other types of food. My host grandparents have a few farms in the country around my city (I'm living in Gravina in Puglia) and they make the best olives, olive oil, wine, and marinated artichokes. I figure the wine could be a bit difficult, considering I'm under 21, but as for the other things, I can jar them and seal the jars, but there would be liquid.

Anyway, I was just wondering what types of foods that you've all been able to bring back to the States from Italy and what types of foods you haven't! Also, do I need to declare everything that I bring back with me?


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  1. Declare everything -- getting busted for failure to declare something is far more severe than getting caught with something you're not supposed to have.

    If you bring something you're not supposed to bring into the US, they'll confiscate it, throw it away, and tell you to not do it again. Not declaring things will get you at minimum a visit to that special little office at the airport, and possibly criminal charges. Declare it ALL.

    Hard cheese (like Parmigiana) is okay -- soft cheese (like ricotta) is not.

    No pork products of any kind, for any reason. (I knoooowwww....all that lovely ham and sausage -- but leave it in Italy rather than see it dumped into a garbage can.)

    Everything else should be commercially sealed -- and packed carefully into your checked luggage, as the 3oz/100ml rule applies.

    And treasure your time abroad -- it will change you in ways you haven't even thought of yet. Good for you on grabbing the gold ring before it passed you by!


      Don't take our word for anything. Go online and get the official rules. In any case, no meat, no fresh produce, no fresh cheeses. Have other cheeses vacuum packed. Olive oil is fine. Spices, vinegars, and packaged foods in general are OK.

      Whether you carry or pack is between you and your luggage. Except for the liquid issue, it makes no difference to the airlines or customs.

      1. I agree with the advice for checking with official sources and declaring everything. For instance, my belief is that you check the stuff, you don't run into 3 oz restrictions about liquids and gels like you do in carry-on -- but look up the current rules. Even if you can carry large bottles or jars in checked bags, they really do get tossed around and slammed by handlers, so make sure you've got plenty of shock-absorbers protecting anything that could break open.

        In the past, I've protected fragile stuff by burying breakable items deep in the center of my checked bag surrounded by shoes and books and slim padding (unopened packs of kleenex or such are great , plus being useful after you unpack). I usually wrap any food item that could leak in three or four plastic bags. So far, no disasters.

        2 Replies
        1. re: barberinibee

          we carry olive oil, jams, liqueur, and wine routinely in our checked luggage back from italy . after carrying cushioning material in the past, we have concluded that dirty cloths wrapped firmly and thickly around bottles are perfectly good cushioning material. You can bag the item too if you are insecure.

          1. re: jen kalb

            that's what we do - the jar/bottle goes in a plastic bag that is taped securely. Either a layer of bubble wrap or rolled in clothes -- carefully packed in a bag with at minimum a bottom frame.

            We've lost one bottle of wine over the years -- we got home, but the bags didn't arrive until the next day. The baggage gorilla threw the suitcase onto the porch, and we heard the bottle break when it hit the edge of the step. Unpacked immediately, and only lost a sweatsock to the wine stains.