10 Foods You Can (And Can't) Bring Into the U.S.
Review this guide before your next trip abroad to avoid making common food mistakes.
Even experienced globetrotters are sometimes stumped as to whether or not they can bring home olives from Greece or chutney from India, so how is the average traveler supposed to know? Therefore, consider this guide a handy resource for your travels abroad. As a general rule of thumb, foodstuffs sold at airports and stores catering to tourists are more likely to get through Customs than that star fruit you bought at a street market in Thailand.
This information is current as of July 2016. However, since guidelines are always changing based on the shifting nature of food-related diseases and pests, always check U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Don’t Pack a Pest before a trip. Also bear in mind that despite general guidelines, there are a multitude of exceptions, so Customs’ agents ultimately have the final say. Just remember, while Customs doesn’t always check your loot, if they catch you with undeclared food you could be slapped with a (maximum) $10,000 fine.
Canned and Packaged GoodsMany items in this category are on the approved list, including honey and olive and vegetable oils, as long as they’re in vacuum-packed jars. If you’re flying, jarred liquids or soft textures, including peanut butter, must meet the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rule of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less, otherwise you’ll have to check your bag or part with your souvenir. 960 1280
DairyThis category is tricky. Milk is generally a no-no, unless it’s for infants. Solid cheese is fine as long as it doesn’t contain meat (such as bacon cheddar cheese). Soft cheeses such as Brie and mozzarella are allowed, but liquid cheeses, including cottage and ricotta, aren’t allowed if they came from countries with foot-and-mouth disease. This currently includes parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Add eggs, and products made from raw eggs, to the list of food that’s not permitted, although travelers can bring cooked eggs from Mexico. Yogurt, butter and sour cream are allowed (and hopefully don’t spoil along the way). 960 1280
Chocolate, Candy and Baked GoodsLuckily, chocolate (including liquid-filled), candy and baked goods are generally allowed. Exceptions include Kinder Surprise Eggs, since the toy inside doesn’t pass FDA safety regulations for children’s toys. Mooncakes (a popular baked good in China) aren’t allowed if they’re stuffed with eggs or meat. However, Mooncakes made in Canada are allowed. 960 1280
Fruits and VegetablesThis category depends on what it is and where it’s from. However, since it’s a long list of what’s not allowed, it’s best to err on the side of caution and leave those lingonberries behind in Sweden. If you have your heart set on a particular item, you can also check the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) database, which lets you search by country or item to find what is and isn’t allowed.
Otherwise, the approved items on the short list include coconuts (as long as the husk is removed), peeled garlic cloves and ginger with clean roots. Dried fruit is also on the short list, from apricots and figs to gooseberries and tomatillos. 960 1280
BeveragesSince there’s a wealth of information on alcohol alone, view 10 Tips for Bringing Alcohol into the U.S. Non-alcoholic beverages have to meet TSA guidelines if you’re flying. Powdered drinks would be the exception, but they would have to be in the original, sealed container that lists ingredients in English—and even then it’s up to the Customs’ agent. Commercially canned juices should pass inspection. Packaged teas are a common souvenir, but forget about bringing home any with coca, barberry or loose citrus leaves. Roasted and unroasted coffees are okay, but not if they contain pulp. 960 1280
Grains, Pasta and BreadAll varieties of rice are allowed as long as the hull is removed. The exception is rice from countries that contain the Khapra beetle (including India, Turkey, Israel and a host of others). Flour and products made from it, from wheat to cornmeal, are allowed, as are noodles and ramen. But bid adieu to those accompanying spice packets containing egg or meat. 960 1280
Meat and PoultryThis category generally isn’t allowed, whether it’s cooked, dried, cured, frozen or a meat-based dried soup mix. Canned meat is the one exception that is sometimes permitted, but with additional exceptions: it can’t be lamb or goat, or come from countries with Mad Cow Disease—including Canada. Pork has further restrictions if it’s from Mexico; you can bring a small amount as part of a meal, but any other kind, including canned, will get tossed. 960 1280
Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
The legendary underwater world bearing the same name has nothing on this Bahamian resort that beckons children and their parents with luxurious resort surroundings and outrageous kids' activities. Kids can choose their own adventures at the stellar AKA (Atlantis Kids Adventure) program. Aspiring chefs can twist pretzels or make pizza in culinary classes and budding architects can don their hard hats and get building in the Lego Construction room. Wizards? Check. There's a cozy tree with perfect nooks for reading the latest magical tale. Extravagant tea party? Atlantis has this one covered, too, in the life-sized Victorian dollhouse equipped with the highest quality in pretend kitchens. There's gaming systems galore, a performance gallery complete with costumes and equipment to make movies, and arts and crafts to rival the best art institute. If the kids ever choose to leave the club, parents might squeeze in a fast family meal before the wee ones are off to the water slides, river rides, rock climbing or marine habitat.960 1280
Smuggler’s Notch Resort
Sure, school is out, but the kids won't mind being students enrolled in the ski programs at Smugglers Notch. Aspiring snowboarders can learn the ropes on Burton snowboards equipped with a softer flex and beveled bottom that help with the learning curve. Cross-country skiers can hone their skills on the bumps and play area at the mini terrain park. The staff is so confident in their students at Snow Sport University that there's a refund if participants don't learn or improve. When class is out, kids can tackle a new hill -- the 22-foot giant double lane slide and the rest of the inflatable fun at FunZone. Indoor pools, dog-sledding, ice-skating and art classes are available to keep the entire family busy.960 1280
Rancho de los Caballeros
Saddle up for a unique spring break at an old-school dude ranch in Arizona. It's like sleep-away camp for the entire family, but with better food and cozier accommodations. Rancho de los Caballeros has been giving families an insider's look at cowboy life since 1947, so it's no surprise they've mastered the art of the family vacation. The children's club starts at 8:00 a.m. with breakfast before a ride on the trails or around the corral for the mini cowboys and girls. The kids are busy with swimming, crafts, hiking, sports and scavenger hunts while parents can spend some time relaxing or playing golf. After lunch, the family is reunited for some together time and more horseback riding or just horsing around in the pool. Then come dinner time, the kids are back to the club and a campfire while mom and dad enjoy dinner in the dining room. It's the best of both worlds and, best of all, most activities in the children's program are free of charge.960 1280
Sandy LaneSandy Lane Resort is a spring break destination to aspire toward with chauffeured luxury cars, palatial suites and chilled, scented towels on arrival. This exclusive resort is pricy, but a worthy investment if you're looking for a refined resort atmosphere with plenty of engaging activities to keep the little ones happy. Parents can enjoy a few rounds of golf on impeccably manicured fairways or slip into the spa for a massage or the moisturizing Rose Hydrating Cocoon. Kids will dig the Treehouse Club with themed events and activities like nature walks, sports, crafts and carnival days, complete with stilt-walking. Teens chill in the Den with pool, air hockey, video games and organized pool parties and water sports. The whole family will love swimming with the rare Hawksbill turtles in the reefs located just off the shore. 960 1280
Steamboat SpringsSteamboat Springs is a dreamboat for families with great children's ski instructions and a bundle of après-ski activities. The Kid's Vacation Center is the starting point for families with a streamlined check-in process and a spacious facility to prepare your young ones for the cold. Lessons are available for kids starting at 2.5-years-old, and there are 5 kids-only slopes where little ones can master the art of the wedge before moving on to the kiddies terrain park. The Rough Rider Basin is a nod to the Old West with teepees, a log-cabin playhouse and snack areas. The whole family will enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Great Rockies followed with a soak in the area's natural hot springs. Kids Fly Free domestic packages coupled with Kids Rent Free and Kids Ski Free all reduce the price of one cool family vacation. 960 1280
Loews Coronado BaySan Diego is an ideal pick for families looking for spring break fun with loads of diversity. There's the beach, of course, but there are also great parks, cool museums and 2 fantastic zoos. The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park is a sprawling and hilly enclave made up of 9 unique zones spread out over 100 acres. Plan on spending a few hours checking out the polar bears, elephants and gorillas, and hop on the guided bus to learn about the animals and give your legs a rest. The Wild Animal Park, 35 miles outside of the city, provides a safari experience as you traverse the 1,800-acre park in an open bus perfect for viewing the herds of wild animals like rhinos and giraffes in a more natural setting. The Loews Coronado Bay resort makes kids and teens feel right at home with club activities, water sports, surfing classes and gondola rides through the Coronado Cays canals. 960 1280
Kauai Surf School
If you can swim, then you can surf. At least that's what the folks at Kauai Surf School believe. Families can arrange for group sessions so the whole crew can wipe out and encourage each other to hop back up again. Group lessons maintain a ratio of 4 students for every instructor, ensuring that everyone has ample time to catch some waves. Parents must accompany children under 12 in group lessons. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort is a family-favorite with an outrageous pool complex including saltwater lagoons and freshwater pools with waterfalls, grottos and a 150-foot slide. Parents don't need to feel guilty about dropping off the keiki, or kids, at Camp Hyatt where kids ages 3-12 can learn the hula, meet the resident parrots or make cool cultural crafts.960 1280
Kalahari Resort Wisconsin DellsWisconsin is king of water parks, and these monstrous slides aren't limited to the great outdoors. Families can save on the sunscreen and splurge on the fun at this indoor water wonderland made up of 125,000 square feet of slides, lazy rivers, wave pools and whirlpools. The Master Blaster uphill water rollercoaster and family raft river rapids are not to be missed. If you can get the kids out of the pool, there's an indoor theme park with a Ferris wheel, indoor go-carts, bowling and arcade games. Admission to the water park is included in the price for on-site accommodations, which include standard hotel rooms and roomier family suites. 960 1280
South Seas Island Resort
In the midst of hectic resorts and crowded beaches, Captiva Island feels like a secret spot where families can turn it down and enjoy a retreat from the everyday. Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, the area has unspoiled beaches and unique wildlife that can be encountered while kayaking through the quiet estuaries or touring the freshwater ponds. It's also a great spot for collecting seashells, so bring along a bucket. But don't confuse a bit of peace and quiet with boring -- there's plenty to do at South Seas Island Resort from sailing in the harbor to playing in the lagoon pool complex or sliding down the waterslides at H2Whoa!960 1280