Tips for getting your food across the border

Tips for getting your food across the border

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 9:08 pm

By MICHELE KAYAL For The Association Press If you know you’d like to bring food items back from your foreign vacation, some advance research may improve your chances of getting it into the U.S. The following Web sites and offices may provide some guidance. • U.S. Customs and Border Protection, http://help.cbp.gov This list of FAQs begins with “What food can I bring into the U.S. (fruit, cheese, meat, etc)?” Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of each entry, which provide more specific information. • U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Q56 Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Reference Database https://manuals.cphst.org/q56/Q56Main.cfm This site breaks down permissible food items according to country, product and other criteria. The site is difficult to navigate, but agency hopes to launch a more user-friendly site sometime this year. • U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Animal Product Manual http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import—export/plants/manuals/ports/apm.sht ml This is the guide the government uses to determine whether your animal product is permitted. GETTING SPECIAL PERMISSION Animal products: Some items will require an import permit. The document costs $91 and can take up to three weeks to receive. And unless you have the foreign government’s certification information the permit is not likely to be granted. Contact National Center for Import and Export: 301-734-3277. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ncie/ Fruit, vegetable and plant products: May require something called a “phytosanitary certificate.” Also a difficult process. http://www.aphis.usda.gov TIPS • Duty-free is no guarantee. Items purchase in duty-free shops may still be confiscated. • Remember that items purchased in Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands may also be subject to restrictions. • Keep items in their original containers. If you break the seal to nibble, you might lose it at the border, even if it’s something that is otherwise allowed. • Vacuum-sealed packages are less likely to get in than canned or shelf-stable, hermetically sealed items. • Have your receipts handy. Duty on some items is levied according to their value. • Current security regulations limit liquids in carryon luggage. With very few exceptions, all liquids must be in 3-ounce bottles or smaller and fit inside one 1-quart plastic bag. So if you’ve just got to lug home some of the local wine or olive oil, carefully pack the bottles (wrapped in plastic wrap or clothing) at the center of your checked bags. • Confused about what to declare? Declare it all. Question 11 on the declarations form asks: “Are you bringing with you: a. fruits, plants, food, or insects? b. meats, animals, or animal/wildlife products? c. disease agents, cell cultures, or snails? d. soil or have you visited a farm/ranch/pasture outside the United States?” So if your ham/cheese/basil plant/croissant falls into any of those categories, put an “X” by “Yes.” And avoid the hassle later. Published in The Messenger 7.30.08

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