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The Travel Detective

The Travel Detective: What You Can and Can Not Bring Back to the U.S.

It’s a question every traveler inevitably asks when shopping in a food market overseas. If I buy it, can I bring it home? The answer is that it depends.

Many agriculture products are prohibited entry into the United States from certain countries, because they may carry plant pests and foreign animal diseases.

So, all agriculture items must be declared and are subject to inspection.

U.S Customs and Border Patrol requires all travelers to complete a CBP declaration form to know what you’re bringing back into the country. Keeping all of your receipts in one place will make this process much easier.

You may have to pay a “duty” or a fee for items you bring back to the country, but you could be exempt if what you’re bringing back is for personal use or given as gifts. It all depends on where and how long you visited.

And if you do bring home presents from your trip for family or friends, make sure you don’t gift wrap, because the presents might need to be unwrapped during inspection.

Lastly, just because an item is prohibited as a carry-on, doesn’t mean it has to go in the trash. It can still make the trip to your destination in a checked bag.

Of course, if you’re already at the security checkpoint when you find out your jar of home-made gravy won’t make it through, you’re out of luck.

But there is some good news. For years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibited bringing back meat items from Spain like the serrano ham, but you know what? Now you can do it. As long as it’s shrink-wrapped and vacuum sealed, you can bring it back. What you can’t do is buy the whole ham. Anything with a bone on it is not allowed. Now remember, these rules change regularly so consult the USDA website to make sure you’re still allowed to bring it back.

By Peter Greenberg for