What foods are you allowed to bring into the U.S.? It can be a mystery

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 4:07 pm -

OK, we’re supposed to be experts on travel issues but there are times that rules and regulations can leave even pros baffled. Is it because it’s a changing playing field? What foods you can bring into the US from overseas?

There’s a lot of controversy over this issue. This is an interesting and informative site . But, I’m beginning to believe nothing is set in stone, except (possibly) a lot depends on which side of the bed the inspector got up.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is, even if you buy cheese at a French airport, and tell the sale person you’re U.S. bound, and are guaranteed the package will make it through customs when property wrapped, don’t accept it as gospel. Ditto for caviar. Between the beagle brigade and the inspectors, I’ve seen some lovely food items left in the inspection area.

It’s hard to watch grown people cry over cans of foie Gras and vacuum packages of ham being confiscated. Are you allowed to bring croissants into the US? My guess would be yes based on this list provided by the CBC.

Travelers definitely must take precautions when returning from adventure travel or farm tours, etc. Contact your tour operator for information about possible exposure to diseases the U.S. may not have. Find out what needs to be done before leaving and returning.

I must plead guilty. I never considered the house we owned in Provence (surrounded by vineyards) to be farmland and noted nothing on my customs declarations. Was it? I’m still not sure.

If you’re subjected to a secondary scanning, Kenneth Larson, a retired aerospace contracts manager said, “Anything with aluminum foil wrapping around it that sets off a metal detector, won’t make it. The scanner does not have the time to open, examine and analyze it. So, it hits the garbage bin.”

Once you’ve stood in line and opened every suitcase and then had them go through the scanner (again), bringing in food becomes substantially less appetizing. I had this pleasure when I was traveling with my cat and brought a sealed foil package of food in her carrier.

If you don’t declare agricultural items and are found out, you’re liable for a $1,000 to $50,000 fine. Do you have to declare candy, etc. that are prepackaged in the original manufacturer’s wrapping? People have been told no but it’s not 100% clear.

After doing substantial research, my conclusion is that getting through customs with food products is a moving target since the rules seem to change frequently.

If you have any insights, please share them. If you’ve had items confiscated, what were they? Do you always fess up about the wedge of runny cheese you’re bringing home as a souvenir of your trip? It tastes so much better in the U.S.

Photo courtesy U.S. Customs Service, photographer James R. Tourtellotte

Posted in Consumer Traveler |