Tempting as they are, and apparently so innocent, many of the agricultural products we happen upon during our wanderings can actually harbor some invasive, potentially harmful pests. Now we know this sounds unlikely and alarmist, but alas, it’s true. Fruits, veggies, processed foods and meats, plants and even handcrafted treasures, can all provide easy transport for hitchhiking troublemakers. This is why Customers officers or agriculture specialists inspect our bags upon re-entry. They are making sure that any agricultural products we are bringing back home are allowed under the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service (APHIS) guidelines. The unwelcome products have the potential to become established in the US, devastating rural and urban landscapes and costing billions in lost revenue and eradication efforts.
All of this is to remind you to be sure to truthfully declare any and all agricultural products to the officers or inspectors at your first port of entry. Keep in mind that failing to do this might just result in fines and penalties. But more to the point, let’s protect our farms and gardens.
Here is a list of food items usually allowed entry, but that still should be declared and pointed out to any officials who inspect your baggage:
- Foodstuffs such as bakery goodies, candy and chocolate.
- Condiments: oil, vinegar, catsup, mustard, pickles, chutneys, honey without honeycombs, jelly and jam.
- Hard cured cheeses without meat, such as parmesan (thank goodness!) and cheddar.
- Canned goods, and goods in vacuum packed jars — other than those containing meat or poultry products, and those containing certain dairy products — that are for personal use.
- Fish and fish products for personal use.
- Powdered drinks still sealed in their original containers, with the ingredients listed in English.
- Dry mixes containing dairy and egg ingredients (such as cocoa mixes, baking mixes, drink mixes, cake mixes, instant pudding mixes, liquid drink mixes containing reconstituted dry milk or dry milk products, potato flakes and infant formula) that are commercially labeled, in their final finished packaging, and that require no further manipulation of the product.
You may also be permitted to bring in some specific fresh fruits and vegetables, animal products and by-products, as well as some plants for planting, cut flowers, firewood and so on, depending on the actual item in question and the country of origin. If you are thinking about bringing back such treasures, it would be a good idea to check out the current restrictions pertaining to agricultural products before you leave. APHIS has great agricultural information for international travelers at www.aphis.usda.gov/travel.
Have a fabulous trip!