What food items can I bring into the United States for personal use?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets guidelines for what food items travelers can bring into the country for personal use. This includes a variety of plant-based items, dairy products, meats, and other animal-derived products. It’s crucial to note that this guidance is specific to food entering the U.S. in passenger baggage for personal consumption and does not apply to food items being shipped via mail or courier services.

For those considering importing food for commercial purposes, separate regulations apply.

When traveling to the U.S., you may be permitted to bring certain food items such as fruits, meats, and other agricultural products, depending on the country or region you are coming from. It’s mandatory to declare all food products upon entry. Failure to do so may result in fines up to $10,000. However, if you declare your items and they are inspected and found inadmissible, you will not face any penalties.

Some of the categories of items you might consider bringing, and need to declare include:

  • Animal products and by-products
  • Handicrafts made from wood, bamboo, etc.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Rice
  • Products for planting
  • Wildlife and game products

Specific guidelines exist for fruits and vegetables, which must be clean and are subject to inspection. The “Don’t Pack A Pest” website provides a useful resource for checking the general admissibility of these items.

Animal products, including meats, milk, eggs, and poultry, along with their derivatives, are often restricted or outright prohibited. There are, however, exceptions such as thoroughly cooked pork products from Mexico allowed for personal use at land borders.

Canadian agricultural products often have more leniency. Fruits and vegetables labeled as Canadian products are generally admissible, except for certain restrictions like raw potatoes from western Canada due to disease outbreaks. Meat products from Canada are allowed if they are commercially packaged, sealed, and have ingredients listed in English, along with proof of origin.

For more detailed information on what is permissible from Mexico, Canada, and other regions, travelers are encouraged to consult the APHIS/USDA website or reach out to the National Center for Import and Export.

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