Tips for getting your food across the border
By Michele Kayal
For The Associated Press
If you know youíd like to bring food items back from your foreign holiday, some advance research may improve your chances of getting it into the U.S. The following Web sites and offices may provide some guidance.
ó U.S. Customs and Border Protection, http://help.cbp.gov
This list of FAQs begins with iWhat food can I bring into the U.S. (fruit, cheese, meat, etc)?î Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of each entry, which provide more specific information.
ó U.S. Department of Agricultureís Q56 Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Reference Database
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.
ó U.S. Department of Agricultureís Complete Animal Product Manual
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 governmentís 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 iphytosanitary certificate.î Also a difficult process. http://www.aphis.usda.gov
ó Duty-free is no guarantee. Items purchased in duty-free shops may still be confiscated.
ó Remember that items purchased in Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands may also be subject to restrictions.
ó Keep items in their original containers. If you break the seal to nibble, you might lose it at the border, even if itís something that is otherwise allowed.
ó Vacuum-sealed packages are less likely to get in than canned or shelf-stable, hermetically sealed items.
ó Have your receipts handy. Duty on some items is levied according to their value.
ó 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 youíve 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.
ó Confused about what to declare? Declare it all. Question 11 on the declarations form asks: iAre 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?î
So if your ham/cheese/basil plant/croissant falls into any of those categories, put an iXî by iYes.î And avoid the hassle later.