If we’re lucky enough, we get to travel all over the world and explore new and exciting places. While we love coming home with memories that last a lifetime, we also usually like to bring home something to remind us of our adventures or gifts for family and friends. While these gifts tend to be trinkets or collector’s items, at times you may want to bring home some delicious treat you got to experience. There are specific rules that need to be followed before you put it in your suitcase to bring to the United States.
Bringing Food Into The United States
When you enter the United States, you must declare all agricultural products on your customs forms. U.S. agricultural inspectors will examine your items to be sure they meet the requirements for entering the country. It’s not just whether it’s legal, you could face a fine and it could be a hefty one.
Foods You Cannot Bring Into The United States
One of the biggest reasons you cannot bring food into the country is to keep infectious diseases out. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, during a typical day in 2020, agriculture specialists detected and seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil. They intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. airports, seaports, and land border ports.
“If just one of these prohibited items had entered the U.S., it could have caused a catastrophic outbreak and cost billions in revenue loss,” according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
The same rules apply for areas like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands because they’re not attached to the country’s mainland.
Here are the foods you cannot bring into the United States:
- Almost all fresh fruits and vegetables (whole or cut)
- Almost all frozen fruits and vegetables
- Home-canned products
- Most dried fruits and vegetables
- Most cattle, swine, sheep, goat meat or meat products from countries affected with certain serious livestock diseases
- Most poultry meat or poultry meat products from countries affected with certain serious poultry diseases
- Most milk and dairy items from countries with foot-and-mouth disease
- Most eggs or egg products from countries affected with certain serious poultry diseases
- Whole coffee berries
- Coca, barberry, and loose citrus leaves
- Spices made from oranges, lemons, limes, other citrus leaves, seeds, and many vegetable and fruit seeds
Foods You Can Bring Into The United States
When bringing foods that are allowed into the United States, they will be examined to make sure they meet the requirements. Agricultural inspectors recommend that you keep receipts and original packaging of agricultural products as proof of their country of origin.
Here are the foods you can bring into the United States:
- Commercially canned fruits and vegetables
- Dried products like beans, dates, figs, nuts (but not chestnuts or acorns),okra, peas, raisins, szechuan peppercorns
- Liquid milk and milk products for infants or small children in small quantities (enough for several days’ use)
- Products containing powdered or dry milk (baby/infant formula, baking mixes, soup mixes, drink mixes) in small quantities, if they are properly labeled
- Commercially-packaged and labeled, cooked, shelf-stable, fully finished food items in unopened packages
- Butter, butter oil, olive oil, and other vegetable oils
- Solid hard or soft cheeses (as long as the cheese does not contain meat or pour like a liquid i.e. ricotta or cottage cheese)
- Commercially-packaged and labeled, cooked, shelf-stable meat and poultry items.
- Most seafood
- Roasted and unroasted coffee beans
- Teas, herbal teas, and infusions commercially packaged and ready to be boiled, steeped or microwaved in liquid
- Most dried spices
- Eggshells with egg white and egg yolk removed that are decorated/etched/painted.
- Moon cakes that do not contain meat, egg, or egg yolk unless the eggs appear “thoroughly cooked throughout.”
- Ketchup (catsup), mustard, mayonnaise, marmite, vegemite, and prepared sauces that do not contain meat products
- Bread, cookies, crackers, cakes, granola bars, cereal, and other baked and processed products
- Candy and chocolate
- Juices that are commercially packaged
- Mushrooms that are fresh, dried, and the above the ground parts that are clean and free of soil
- Aloe, above ground parts
- Coconuts that are dry and without husks that haven’t sprouted
- Peeled garlic cloves
- Ginger with clean roots
There are some exceptions when traveling from Canada into the United States. Most fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Canada are allowed. You cannot bring in avocados, bananas, European blackberries, cherries from Ontario Province, fresh chestnuts, chives, citrus, coconut, garlic, guava, okra, onion, papaya, peppers, pineapple, tomatoes, tropical fruits, and spinach. Check out this list to make sure what you’re bringing is allowed.
If there is something special you want to bring back from your travels, be sure to plan ahead and work with import specialists so you understand and meet all of the requirements. It will save you time, headaches, and fines.
The important thing to remember is as long as you declare what you’re bringing into the United States, you will not face any fines or penalties, even if an inspector determines that they cannot enter the country.
For more helpful information about traveling internationally, check out: