What Food Can You Bring On International Flights Into The USA?

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On Tuesday I wrote about our close call with getting fined and losing Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check when our 3 year old brought an apple with him from a Miami hotel to Brazil and back to Miami again.

The comments on that post are fascinating, with lots of people sharing stories of how they were let go with a warning or got hit with a fine and loss of their Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check after failing to declare food. Some were chastised for having something as harmless as a can of Coke without disclosing it on the form. Like a speeding ticket, the only difference between getting a warning of a punishment appears to be the mood of the officer.

The one lesson from that post is that if you have any food whatsoever, make sure to check box 11a and/or 11b:

 

Lying about any of those statements can result in a fine and the permanent loss of Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check. Even if you just have a piece of candy, you should check that you do have food and let the agent know exactly what you have.

Here is a list of items that you are allowed to bring into the US, but they must be declared on the customs form or at the Global Entry kiosk:

      • Condiments  such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, Marmite, Vegemite, and prepared sauces that do not contain meat products.
      • Olive oil and other vegetable oils
      • Bread, cookies, crackers, cakes, granola bars, cereal, and other baked and processed products
      • Candy and chocolate
      • 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. 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.
      • Canned goods and goods in vacuum packed jars (other than those containing meat or poultry products) for your personal use
      • Fish – personal amounts of fish, shrimp, abalone and other seafood are allowed and can be fresh, frozen, dried, smoked, canned or cooked
      • Dried Fruit– things like apricots, barberry, currants, dates, figs, gooseberries, peaches, prunes, raisins, tomatillos, and zereshk
      • Liquid milk and milk products intended for use by infants or very young children are admissible if in a reasonable amount or small quantity for several days use. 
      • Powder drinks sealed in original containers with ingredients listed in English.
      • Juices – commercially canned
      • Tea– commercially packaged and ready to be boiled, steeped or microwaved in liquid. Coca, barberry and loose citrus leaves are prohibited.
      • Coffee – roasted or unroasted if there is no pulp attached.
      • Spices – most dried spices are allowed except for orange, lemon, lime and other citrus leaves and seeds, lemongrass, and many vegetable and fruit seeds
      • Honey– comb honey, royal jelly, bee bread, or propolis if it is not intended to be fed to bees
      • Noodles and ramen that do not have meat or eggs in the spice packets
      • Rice white rice, basmati rice, brown rice, husked rice, polished rice, rice flour and other products that do not have the hull attached. Rice from countries where Khapra beetle is known to occur will be prohibited from entering the United States. Failure to declare rice will result in fines.
      • Flour– wheat, rice, oat and cornmeal
      • Mushrooms, fresh and dried- above ground parts that are clean and free of soil
      • Nuts– All nuts are allowed if they have been boiled, cooked, ground, oven dried, pureed, roasted, or steamed. Other nuts may be allowed if they are free from their husks (the shell remains), such as almonds, betel nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, coquilla nuts, filberts (hazelnuts), Java olives, kara nuts, gingko nuts, macadamias, pecans, pili nuts, pine nuts (pinon nuts), pistachios, and walnuts.
      • Bakery items, candy, chocolate, and dry mixes containing dairy and egg ingredients [such as baking mixes, cocoa mixes, drink mixes, instant cake mixes, instant pudding mixes, liquid drink mixes containing reconstituted dry milk or dry milk products (including those that contain sugar), potato flakes, and infant formula] commercially labeled and presented in final finished packaging are generally admissible.

In general, you should avoid bringing fruits, vegetables, chicken, and meat (raw or cooked) into the US. There are case-by-case exceptions, but you should assume that these items will be confiscated, even if they’re declared.

Most countries are not as vigilant as the US. This DDF thread includes a wiki where people share which countries do or do not cause issues for bringing food past customs. You can add your experience to that thread.

Have you ever gotten in trouble for bringing food into a country? Share your stories below!

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65 Comments On "What Food Can You Bring On International Flights Into The USA?"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Shaul

What about wine/other alcohol?

Anon

Generally yes. But if you go to the islands and get one of the gift sets that has the bottle of wood and a bottle of rum, they’ll make you either toss the bottle of wood or pour the rum into the other bottle to basically disinfect the wood.

This isn’t some random new rule. This has always been the case with food items to prevent spread of illnesses and bugs.

Red

Must declare it. Generally one liter is duty free, though they may at their discretion waive duty on more than that if you only have a few bottles.

Joe

Thank you dan great post

Dansdealsfollower

It’s like the Agricultural Inspection when you fly from ny of the Hawaiian islands back to the mainland. There are insects and plants they would like to have stay in Hawaii. Makes sense that they do it at airports abroad when flying to the U.S..

DanielR

Weird… I searched this 2 days ago(Google) … And know everything by Saint Dan lol

Max52

Hi Dan
Thanks for everything you do.

I have Tsa Pre and travel often.
I would hope if some one can clear this up for me.
If i bring in food that was actually bought in the USA and can be proved can i be fined for that.
I asked this question once from an office in customs he answered me that you can not be fined for something that is allowed to be brought in even though you lied.

In other words they can not fine you for a lie only if they find something that is illegal to bring in.

Any one has any experience with this.

Shaul

Once the food leaves the US it can’t come back in if it’s a prohibited type.

Alan

Usda meat that is still sealed can be brought back but you must claim it

Work-for-ur-muny

I gonna assume that what the officer told you pertains to bringing in only. When it comes to your GE membership, though, it can be revoked for a lie even though there’s no violation of customs law.
/assumption

Red

Just don’t lie. If you have food, tell them. If you declare it and it turns out to be prohibited, they will make you throw it out, but the’re won’t be penalties.

Eric Rozzell

If you don’t read and then violate the instructions, you deserve to lose your privileges.

Pinchas

I noticed a when using the electronic kiosk to fill out the form it does not have “food” in the question!!! It asks you about “fruits , vegetables …” but does NOT have the word “food”!

Al

No way. Food IS buried in there.

DT

It definitely does say “food”. At least it did as recently as 2 weeks ago.

Sillypainter

Right. I came back last week, it’s buried at the end. Looks like a GOTCHA question to me. Because why list fruit, meat etc. if you can just say FOOD?

Red

“Do you have fruit, plants, FOOD, … ” emphasis mine

photo from View from the Wing:
https://3rjfy21znlo631twxe405qqvzc4-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/cbp.png

jack

where does it say food?

SearchGuy

Meat from Australia is allowed in the USA but must be declared

Mordy

yep, have done this many times! No issues.

Shmuel

Can sugar be brought in?

R

Here’s an idea — don’t bring anything in! Why do you need to bring in sugar or meat from another country? How many of you are travelling with 10 chicken legs in your bag on an int’l flight?

reb yid

You brought snacks for the kids for the trip and all of a sudden you should throw it all out as soon as you land? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to keep snacks with you, as long as it’s on the approved list.

Sam

I travel quite frequently internationally and always take food with me from the states.

Is it a problem to bring it back with me??

rh

I always mark yes and tell them each individual item of food I packed for my trip! (candies, pretzels, cookies, roasted almonds, rolls, chumus, hard cheese, …. by then they are annoyed that I am wasting their time and always just brush me further and don’t even let me finish my complete list till the end. They label me as a nudgenik! Better safe than sorry!

g

i have flown through el salvador a few times and each time I would say that about half the plane was bringing in fried chicken is shopping bags from Pollo Campero. I doubt they declared it on the form. I asked immigration about it and they said it was dept of agriculture’s issue. Noone seemed concerned. BTW this is at Dulles.

username

Not food, but my daughter packed a bag with crayons coloring books and…a scissors to entertain herself on a flight. Was stopped at security. Luckily the blades of the scissors were a tad under 4″, so it wasn’t the shiur of a forbidden shear. 🙂

b

From the form. Do you tick the fruit/vegetable box if you’re bringing tea and chocolate.

Eli,

just came this morning from china made us fill out the form however when came to JFk we had to use the kiosk and have our passport scanned via these machine these question were on the kiosk,

DT

Guys. Just declare it and let customs sort it out! That’s their job. There’s zero reason to sneak food in… as you can see by the list above most things are allowed in to the US, so just declare it. It takes just a few minutes extra and you don’t have that nervous feeling when walking through the “nothing to declare” lane. If you get “caught” with something prohibited after you declare it, no biggie, you shouldn’t be bringing it in anyway. If you get caught with something prohibited and didn’t declare it, you deserve your fine!

When I went to NZ I brought a ton of kosher food from the US… I just declared it and the very nice customs agent went through everything to confirm the country of origin (I couldn’t bring in a small bag of Israeli chicken/turkey sausages…no major loss). He was totally familiar with kosher (surprisingly for NZ) and didn’t bat an eyelid. US customs agents have been a little bit more brusque with me but nothing extreme, and they haven’t confiscated any food ever.

Shloimee

I just flew in to Atlanta from Paris after pesach, and they didn’t give out the forms. I asked the cbp officer, and she said that they had stopped using them.

sy

Tomatoes from Israel ARE allowed -as long as they have no leaves/stalk on them.
MUCH better than US tomatoes, i bring them back with me every time, declare them, sometimes get told “tomatoes – No way”, always get sent for secondary screening,politeley inform the officer that i checked on APIS and they are allowed….no problem

Cancunfail

Went to Cancun and had 18 meals confiscated – Thank god there was a kosher restaurant there. otherwise pringles for a week is not cool

Helen

This whole story made me aware that 11a includes the word FOOD. I always just focused on the fruit and veggies part, never noticed it said food. Now I will know to check yes, because as kosher travelers we absolutely always have snacks with us that we don’t end up eating up to the last bite.

AS

Note that esrogim from Israel are a completely separate issue….

lrs

What do you do about sealed esrogim?

Chas.

Be aware that once you go through security from Canada to the United States, even though you haven’t gone on a plane, you are considered to have crossed the border and are now in the US. I brought an orange to eat on the plane and did not declare it because I had no intention of bringing it “into the US”. When they “caught me lying” I explained that I was still in Canada and the orange would not reach the US. They assured me that I was already in the US having crossed the border, and caught with fruit that was undeclared. The sent me to “Agriculture”, an office with intimidating people, where they poked, and xrayed the orange and admonished me for my grave sin. I almost missed my flight back to NY. So, even if you never left the ground, know, that you have arrived!

DSK

Thanks Dan–I have always wondered about this and have read the Flyertalk threads, but you had the best explanation. By the way, the Global Entry kiosk questions on the machine can differ depending on where and when you enter the USA. Most do contain the word “food” (often like the fourth entry in the list), but when we returned from Paris through Chicago on April 16, the word “food” did not appear in the list. We have read that this can be the case elsewhere on the web. So, we have started reading the standard Global Entry list very carefully and respond depending on the exact phraseology of the question.

J

Is this true for every country or just Israel?

Marsh

Stopped for bringing in a cheese sandwich that was made in relatives home I was staying. She yelled at me and threatened to take away global entry I have had for 8 years. Claimed I didn’t realize, thought it was purchased items only, let me go with a warning, that was about 3 years ago, but never thought about candy in my purse I always take!

cook

Stopped over in OGG Hawaii Island, didn’t exit airport, stayed at gate area, but all carry on lugagge were scanned again at a pop up security right next to the gate and all our fruits were confiscated, and agents were pretty brusque imo.

Eli Willner

Don’t rely on the intelligence of the agriculture agents. On a recent overseas trip I returned with several unopened packages of Aaron’s cold cuts that I hadn’t had a chance to use. I declared them and figured that I’d have no problem because it was made in USA, cooked and sealed. But the agri agent, obviously a recent immigrant, told me to show him on the packaging that it was made in the USA. I showed him where it said “produced in IA”. He said, “I don’t know where IA! I just want to see made in USA!” He called over a colleague (an obvious landsman) and he had no clue either. (Maybe they thought IA was short for “India”, the alter heim?)

I had to flag down a supervisor to rescue me.

(What do they have to study to pass their citizenship tests, anyway?)

valmc

How can one tell someone is “obviously a recent immigrant”????

Kachnik

Are you sure shrimp are allowed if you are wearing a kippa?

ab

What about chocolate and Doritos from Israel?

shai

how about sealed osem packs of instant soups

Barbara Kessel

Kinder Eggs? I heard they are forbidden because of the little toys inside. True?

Seeds from Israel

Hi, does anyone know if Sunflower Seeds (Garinem), Watermelon seeds etc from Israel are allowed into the US ? Do I need to check box 11a? Would they confiscate the seeds if I declare it?
Thanks!

Yanky

I returned yesterday from Europe to the U.S. EWR. I have GE. I brought back a tuna and egg sandwich. I selected yes on the food , the printed slip had a circle for special attention. The officer asked me what I am bringing in. I told him a tuna and egg sandwich. He flagged down another officer and told her to take me to agricultural, took my passport and slip and escorted me to a room, I wait is a few minutes and they call me. Ask me what I brought asked to open my bag , I was let go. I asked the officer of have to declare it next time if I bring a sandwich. He did not answer the question. He just said why not. It takes just a few minutes.

Lui

What about sunflower seeds for snack?

Lourdes

Can I bring meat products sausages and salami from Budapest Hungary to the USA

Helene Zhu

so no air tight packaged sausage from hungary? damn…

Sabri

Can I bring a few litres of squash with me in the checked luggage? I’m going to be working/living in Colorado for 8 months.

T.Ranganathan

Travel advice for senior citizens to carry medicine to US on tourist visa

Elisabetta

Is it possible to bring a little box with some cooked pasta, some canned tuna and some chopped veggies? Would it be confiscated?

Dewa

Is it fine to brink chicken cracker to Orlando USA?

Aaron

I have global entry. I never realized that it said the word “food’. When I came back from overseas today, I clicked yes by food, I got the ticket with the circle on it. By exit agent asked what food, I said snacks, bakery, candy.etc he said you did the right thing and let me pass

Jen

No cooked chorizo vaccuum sealed from Mexico to US through Houston. Claimed it. Got it tossed. Acquaintances claim to have been allowed to do same through Atlanta and Miami.

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