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“Can I bring that back?”

I’ve been asked that question a lot by visitors to France, wondering if they can bring certain items home. Here are some articles and posts about what can and can’t be brought back into the United States:

Think Twice Before Stuffing Your Suitcase (USA Today)

Transportation Security Administration

Importing Food Products into the United States (FDA)

Travelers Bringing Food Into the US for Personal Use (US Customs & Border Protection)

(Please note that rules and regulations are subject to change and revision, and it’s always best to consult with the United States government websites for the most current information.)

Related Links

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris

Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

10 Things to Bring Back from Your Trip to Paris

Things I Bring Back to France from America

10 Goofy Things You’ll Find in a French Supermarket

The Rules: Bringing Things Home from France



    • Matt

    Thanks for the info, David! I’ve accepted long ago that anything I declared would be seized from my grubby little hands.

    One year my tinned tuna from Spain is ok – other times it’s not.

    Thank god they’ve never taken all the smuggled drugs!

    (I’m kidding, I’m kidding.)

    • David

    Well Matt, they probably didn’t find your smuggled drugs because they weren’t looking in the right places.

    And I don’t mean your grubby little hands!

    (I’m kidding too. Well, kind of…)

    • sam

    I guess I should go & stand in front of my tin of Maggi Fond de Veau and give thanks that I am able to gaze upon its shiny packaging.

    • Kevin

    The last two times I’ve entered this country from Europe (both before 9/11) I’ve declared the stuff that was legal and simply didn’t mention the stuff that wasn’t. Those three kilos of Jamon Serrano lasted almost a year.{g}

    • sam

    I ALWAYS tick the “yes I have food” box. And then when they ask me what – I smile and say sweetly – “oh you know – a few candies and cookies and chocolate and stuff”, trying to convince myself that the foie gras is sufficiently covered by the “and stuff” portion of my sentence.

    You could also take an apple off the plane, and then hand it over apologizing for the mistake, “oops I am sorry i just realised I carried this apple with me off the plane”. They will enjoy confiscating it and marking it with the flight number with a big indelible marker and probably forget to ask you what else you have.

    Always declare cava from fiji. It’s whitish powder that has a numbing effect on the gums, so honesty is the best policy. They DO let it through without any problems.

    • Jessica

    Oh, I do wish I’d read that article prior to our trip to Italy last year! I would have brought home some parmisan from the Emila Romana region. Sigh.

    • anne

    thanks so much for the link! as i am headed to paris in a few weeks and expect to come back stateside with a considerable amount of loot (oh my goodness, it’s sale season beginning june 28!) it’s helpful to know what i can and cannot lug with me on the trip back.

    that’s why i’ve favorited this site, david!

    • Mariann Vandenberg, CTC

    My Slow Food travelers going to Torino in October will all get a copy of this article. The best I’ve ever seen for food lovers. Hope those customs agents don’t read all the tricks of your blog-readers!

    • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

    Like Sam, I always tick the “Yes I have food” box and actually write on the sheet what I have (my plan being that if they find out what I did not mention, I would say that I was just tired and forgot). I also once went to see a customs agent while waiting to ask him about the cheese rule, explaining I was going to France and the Netherlands often, and knew we could bring cheese back, yet was confused about which ones. To which I was told the rule anf diff between soft and hard cheese. Brie and Camembert were fine if you can believe that. But not Brie de Meaux. Would they see the diff though?

    This last time, my bags were scanned though when the agent saw my “Yes I have food” answer….

    • Nico

    I still remember a passage in Steingarten’s “It must’ve been something I ate”, where he describes ticking off all boxes ‘YES’ on the declaration sheet. He then describes how he, along with the big grin on the officer’s face when he hands it over at the airport, can just walk through customs without any problem :-)

    • David

    I have a friend who’s in the US Customs Dept who said, basically, “If you’re bringing in items for personal consumption, in reasonable quantities, it’s not a big deal.” That was her response when I asked about importing raw milk cheeses. And indeed the last time I went back to SF, I was loaded up with cheese for a friend and when asked, I told the customs I just had lots of French cheeses (and chocolate.) He just waved me through.

    BTW: In Paris, many fromageries will shrink-wrap cheeses for transit. This is called sous-vide and sometimes they’ll charge an extra € to do it. But you should definately do it if you’re planning on bringing cheese back. They may not smell all that strong when you buy ’em, but after a few hours in the overhead compartment, you (and your fellow passengers) will be in for a rather stinky voyage if you don’t. Trust me.

    • Maureen

    But what she didn’t mention was the fact that you can bring practically anything INTO France.

    I have come back into Paris so many times with enormous boxes and suitcases stuffed full of cheerios, butterscotch chips and King Arthur Flour and and they have never once stopped me.

    I always joked that I could have a whole suitcase full of drugs and they would just wave me through (kidding!).

    • Jess

    great article. last year i arrived in auckland and they fined my friend $200 for an apple, and it was originally from new zealand!

    i’m guilty of getting a tad overzealous while travelling. i can spend a whole day just sightseeing at supermarkets. now can someone please tell me what to do with the tartufata i bought in croatia…nearly two years ago?

    • Meg

    A warning to those who declare: in Chicago (at least) whenever you declare you have food, they make you – and whoever is travelling with you – put all your luggage through an extra x-ray. The year I got married, that included myself, my stepdaughter to be, my mil to be and my intended, some 10 pieces of luggage.

    Now I declare, but hand over most of the luggage to hubby first and enter separately.

    I guess they are trying to catch all the ones who declare, but “forget” some items – interesting to see here how common that is!

    • Ilva

    Fortunately I don’t have any problems with the customs when it comes to Slitti as I live 10 km from that Mecca! Thanks David for the tip, I will go there and buy some crema spalmabile as soon as I can!

    • Heidi

    If somebody could tell me an importer for that lovely chocolate All-Bran we smuggled in last time, I’d be ever so grateful!

    (It was infinitely more welcome than the incredibly smelly cheese we smuggled, which my sisters were convinced was a hard cheese, but turned out to be smelly AND runny…)


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