Food, plants, agricultural products

Detector dogs at U.S. airports sniff out food in luggage arriving from overseas

Last updated 28 March 2012

U.S. personnel overseas can help American farmers in a big way. Just don't put fresh fruit, vegetables, red meats, sausage or plants into the mail or a personal property shipment. One piece of fruit or sausage can cause such a major outbreak of disease that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection fines people who mail or take prohibited foods to the States at least $300. When you return from abroad, you will be given a Customs Declaration form on which to declare your agricultural products and will also be asked whether you have visited a farm or ranch outside the United States. Officers inspect passenger baggage for undeclared agricultural products. Failure to declare any items may result in delays and fines of up to $1,000.

"We're having a big problem with canned meats being mailed at the moment," said William Manning, USDA adviser to the European Command. He explained that the canned meats come mainly from Germany and threaten U.S. agriculture because they are often not cooked long enough to kill Foot and Mouth Disease germs. USDA therefore fines people who mail canned or dried meat, pâté, salamis or sausages to the States because the disease has been eradicated in the USA.

These meat products are barred from import to the United States
You would be fined at least $300 if they were found in your luggage and you had not declared them


"European food is generally no different from U.S. produce but it can carry agricultural pests and diseases which we don't have in the States," Manning added. "These pests cost the American taxpayer $22 billion a year." Examples of imported pests are the infamous Mediterranean fruit fly and citrus-canker which took 40 years and $13 million to eradicate when it hit the States. Some foods such as bread, cookies and cured cheeses are not banned from import. Candies, cakes, tea, dried or canned fruits, mushrooms and canned or processed vegetables are also good to go.

The following links can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that can occur
when taking or sending plant or food products to the United States.

Prohibited items

Click on the following options for more information on:

Fish and Wildlife
Food Products (Prepared)
Fruits and Vegetables
Meats, Livestock, and Poultry
Plants and Seeds

Bringing Agricultural Products Into the United States

Customs and Border Protection tips on taking food, plants and animal products into the USA.

Know Before You Go

This PDF pamphlet from Customs and Border Protection also contains information on taking and sending Food, plants and agricultural products to the USA

Shipping plants home The regulations in 7 CFR part 319 prohibit or restrict the importation into the United States of certain plants and plant products to prevent the introduction of plant pests into the United States. The regulations contained in "Subpart–Nursery Stock, Plants, Roots, Bulbs, Seeds, and Other Plant Products" (§ 319.37) prohibit or restrict the importation of living plants, plant parts, and seeds intended for planting. Click the link for more info from USDA.


Information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Threatened and Endangered Wildlife and Plants.


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