Bringing a taste of your travels home with you is a noble pursuit. Leaving behind the sumptuous cheeses you sampled in France or the wine you tasted in Italy can be heart-wrenching to say the least. So what should you try to bring back stateside? What does the U.S. allow you to enjoy post-vacation and what should you leave behind to enjoy on a follow up trip?
We’ve put together a list (culled from the FDA and Customs and Border Patrol’s official lists) of what they can’t take away from you, what just depends on the customs agent you get, and what you’d be fined for — because there is nothing worse than having your treasured food souvenirs get unceremoniously dumped in some undeserving airport trashcan.
The restrictions and rules, as you can imagine, are filled with minute details and small print. The regulations on what types of cheese you can and cannot bring are manifold, as are those for nuts, fish, eggs, and meats. One rule that trumps them all, though, is that every food item carried back into the United States must be declared. (You face up to $10,000 in fines if you fail to do so.)
Think just shipping it home is a loophole in the system? Au contraire. Items like gift baskets (which are heavily regulated) sent from any other country are subject to Bioterrorism Act requirements and as a result, many food vendors abroad will no longer ship baskets or gifts containing foodstuffs back to the U.S.
Whether you’ve fallen in love with a local delicacy, hoped to bring back a favorite edible souvenir, or can’t let go of the lingering flavors of your holiday — make sure to check this list before you stuff it deep within your suitcase. Digging things out while in line at customs is a terrible way to return home!
This post was originally published on June 9, 2011.