Customs Requirements for Traveling to the USA: Allowed and Prohibited Items

Customs Requirements

Have you applied for your ESTA visa and are about to travel to the United States? Then you’ve probably thought about taking food, medicine, or even tobacco (given the high price of cigarettes in the US) or alcohol. If you want to know what foods you can take with you in your luggage, you’ve come to the right place.

We explain what you need to know in a simple and clear way. Although it is allowed to bring food, medicine, tobacco and alcohol, there are some restrictions imposed by customs authorities to prevent the importation of food that could seriously damage the ecosystem of the United States. The import of food and similar products is regulated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the American transport agency.

The controls on food and anything crossing the border are very strict and you have to be careful not to get into conflict and prepare your luggage carefully to avoid severe penalties. You’re probably wondering: What can I take with me on my trip to the United States?

Foods that are allowed or not allowed in the USA

Before we go into detail and see what foods are allowed or not allowed to be imported into the United States, you should know that if you enter the American territory and want to bring food with you for personal use or as a gift for acquaintances, you are obliged are to declare everything you are carrying in your luggage or hand luggage.

If you are negligent in declaring a particular food item, you could be fined up to $10,000 and in the event of a serious violation, your visa or ESTA USA could be revoked by customs authorities and you would be immediately sent back to your country of origin.

Allowed foods in the USA

In general, the following foods are allowed to be imported into the United States:

  • Sauces and seasonings that do not contain meat products (mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup);
  • Vegetable oils and olive oil.
  • Chocolate and sweets.
  • cookies, breads, crackers, cereals and other baked products;
  • Fresh or aged cheese, buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and other semi-aged cheeses that do not contain meat products
  • Canned or vacuum-packed products as long as they do not contain meat and/or poultry.
  • Flour
  • Nuts and similar products, usually without shells
  • Fresh (soilless) and/or dried mushrooms.
  • White rice, semolina, basmati, whole grains and rice flour.
  • Ramen and noodles that have no eggs or meat in the sauce.
  • Honey
  • Juices, coffee and tea.
  • Spices, except those derived from citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, etc.
  • Energy drinks or powders (if the label of their composition is in English).
  • Milk and milk products when used to feed an infant or young child (in moderate amounts) for a few days. However, goat’s milk must be accompanied by an import permit if it comes from risk areas.
  • Fish, shrimp and seafood, fresh, smoked, canned, frozen, cooked or dried.
  • Dried fruits such as peaches, tomatoes, figs, plums and apricots.

Foods that are not allowed in the USA

A general rule is that the import of food that can transmit infectious diseases is not permitted. The reason for this is understandable: A severe outbreak of parasites or diseases can disrupt ecosystems and lead to higher food bills, shortages of certain foods and losses for farmers, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Also, items purchased in Hawaii and other US territories such as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam are subject to many of the same strict rules as other countries, as they are not connected to the mainland of the country and therefore face the same risks as the continental Represent ecosystem. In case of Mexico or Canada, you can check details about TN visa requirements here.

There are several foods that are banned from importation into the United States, including:

Fruits and Vegetables: The vast majority of fruits and vegetables that can be imported into the United States, whether fresh or canned, are not allowed in your luggage. You can check what types of fruits or vegetables you can import into the country by checking the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) constantly updated database (FAVIR) of approved products. The FAVIR (Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements) lists all types of fruits and vegetables from around the world and indicates whether there is an absolute ban on imports or whether customs inspection is required. Fresh fruits or vegetables suitable for import into the United States must be clean and free of insects.

Food of animal origin: It is not possible to introduce any type of food that is of animal origin or contains meat.

In addition, the following types of edibles are not allowed in the USA:

  • All cheeses from countries affected by foot and mouth disease or other animal diseases. It is always recommended to check the Ministry of Agriculture website before departure.
  • Coca leaves and citrus leaves;

In summary, the following foods are not allowed to be imported into the USA:

  • Almost all fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Most dried fruits and vegetables
  • Most poultry, cattle, pork, sheep or goat meat or meat products from countries affected by certain serious livestock diseases
  • Whole coffee berries
  • Coca, barberry and loose citrus leaves
  • Spices made from oranges, lemons, limes and other leaves and seeds of citrus fruits and vegetables
  • Milk and milk products from countries with foot and mouth disease
  • Most eggs or egg products from countries affected by certain serious poultry diseases.

Exception for Mexico:

Some exceptions are made when entering from Mexico. Most fruits and vegetables are allowed to be imported. Stone fruits, apples, mangoes, oranges, guavas, sopotes, cherimoya and sweet limes from Mexico require a permit. Mexican avocados must be peeled, halved, pitted and stored in liquid or vacuum packed, but are allowed to be imported and are subject to inspection. Most meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are also permitted to be imported into the United States, with the exception of pork unless it is a small quantity and well-cooked.

Exception for Canada:

Some exceptions apply to travel from Canada to the United States. Most meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are allowed into the United States for personal use. Most fruits and vegetables are also allowed across the border, with the exception of bananas, European blackberries, Ontario cherries, alliums, citrus fruits, papayas, peppers, pineapples and tomatoes.

It is important to note that any foods not listed as permitted in this article are banned in the country.

How much alcohol can be imported into the USA?

If you are traveling to the United States and are over 21 years of age, you are allowed to bring one liter of alcohol with you without customs duty. If your family consists of people who are all over the permitted age, each member can carry the specified amount of alcohol. It should be noted that we are talking about liquids here, and as we know, there are strict rules regarding liquids in carry-on luggage, so alcohol bottles must be placed in checked luggage and declared at customs.

Of course you can import more alcohol into the US, there is no federal restriction on personal use, you just have to pay the customs fees. Remember not to overdo it, you could be subject to controls for illegal trading.

Tobacco when traveling to the USA

A traveler entering the United States can carry up to 100 cigars and 200 cigarettes in his or her luggage. Tourists from Cuba are allowed to bring tobacco products worth up to $100 back to the United States. It is possible to bring additional tobacco into the US, but these will be taxed. U.S. residents (e.g., green card holders) returning from American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands are permitted to bring 1,000 cigarettes into the country once every 31 days.

Allowed medications for travel to the USA

The importation of medications into the United States is permitted, but only if they are kept in their original containers and accompanied by a printed doctor’s prescription. It is advisable to take with you an amount of medication sufficient to cover your stay in the United States.

If you are traveling with medical equipment such as needles or oxygen cylinders that could pose a safety concern or risk to others, you should ensure that you have a copy of the prescription for such items from your doctor.

Amie has a love for numbers and holds a master’s degree in finance. When she’s not playing with numbers or words or pottering in the garden, you can find her in the kitchen roasting her own coffee beans.

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