Importing foods from abroad can make the holidays more meaningful and fun. But please take care when bringing any food or agricultural items into the United States—whether you’re returning from an international trip or ordering online. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) restricts or prohibits many foreign foods and agricultural items from entering the United States. Why? They could be carrying pests or diseases that could threaten human health or devastate the environment, crops, agricultural animals, ornamental plants, and gardens.
Invasive pests threaten agricultural jobs and raise our food prices by damaging crops, costing millions of dollars in treatments to farmers and government agencies, and closing foreign markets to U.S. products from infested areas. They also feast on America’s natural resources, disrupting and harming our environment. These pests push out native species that provide food and habitat to wildlife, reduce biological diversity, kill forest trees, place other species at increased risk of extinction, and alter wildfire intensity and frequency.
To keep these pests out of our country, U.S. customs officials inspect cargo, international mail, and personal baggage coming into the United States looking for prohibited or restricted items. Below are some examples of commonly seized items during the holidays. The list can give you an idea of the kinds of food and agricultural items that might not be allowed into the United States, but it’s far from complete. You can learn more about what’s allowable and what isn’t on USDA’s “Agricultural Information for International Travelers” Web page at www.aphis.usda.gov/travel. Help protect America’s agricultural bounty and natural beauty. Keep prohibited products out of the country.
Partial List of Commonly Seized Food and Agricultural Items during the Holidays
From Various European Countries
Bacon and bacon-flavored products
Beef luncheon meat
Beef products such as bonestock, bovril, cubes, fat, gravy, pate, sauce, stock
Bouillon (beef, chicken, pork)
Chicken product such as sauce, seasoning
Dried chicken meat
Dried/dehydrated soup with chicken, lamb, pork, or beef product
Lentil soup mix
Meat juice flavor
Pate, beef or pork
Pork products such as gravy, pork seasoning, smoked pork fat
Potato chips with beef or pork product
Soup with chicken, pork, or beef flavor
Soup mix with beef product
Seeds: alder, grass, Norway spruce, silver birch, and wildflower
Stuffed olives with ham
Tomato sauce with beef
Wild flower and grass seeds
Pork and pork products
If you’re in doubt about whether an item is allowed, don’t hesitate to contact USDA:
For plants and plant products, including fruits and vegetables, call the USDA Permit Unit at (301) 734-0841 or toll-free at (877) 770-5990, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For soil, live plant pests, biological control agents, or noxious weeds, call (866) 524-5421 or email email@example.com.
For animal products or by-products, call USDA’s National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-3277, or email AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov.
Are you aware of the potential smuggling of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables, or meat products into or through the United States? You can help USDA’s Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) unit by contacting our confidential Anti-Smuggling Hotline number at 800-877-3835.
As an alternative, e-mail the details to SITC_Mail@aphis.usda.gov. USDA will make every attempt to protect the confidentiality of information sources during an investigation within the extent of the law.