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. 960 1280
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