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What cheeses can we bring back to US?

 
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jellybean



Joined: 09 May 2005
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 5:06 pm    Post subject: What cheeses can we bring back to US? Reply with quote

We've heard conflicting advice about what cheese, indeed if any, we can bring back to the US. Does having them vacuum packed make a difference?

Anyone have any bad experiences with customs?

What about wine? I believe it's a liter a person. Can we bring back more and pay a duty fee? How much would that be?

Thanks for your help.
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melinda



Joined: 01 Oct 2004
Posts: 256
Location: Richmond, VA, usa

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

most of the good gooey cheeses u can't bring back....i think hard cheeses r ok....they sell lots in duty free & they r soo tempting, but many r illegal.....i've brought some home in previous trips (I always bring a cooler bag) but with tighter security I didn't chance it last time, but in the end I could have made it as no one checked.....but the smell will give u away!
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shn



Joined: 16 May 2005
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 4:02 pm    Post subject: cheese Reply with quote

The vacuum packing makes a huge difference. Last month I tested it out. I brought home two very stinky cheeses - a Calvados Camembert and a very ripe Epoisses. There was no smell and I breezed right through customs.
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wnissen



Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Posts: 13
Location: Livermore, CA

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 10:54 pm    Post subject: Well, it depends Reply with quote

There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that, as others have said, pretty much any gooey, fresh cheese is not OK to bring in. If it's been aged more than 60 days, it's OK, so hard and medium cheeses are fine. The health risk is incredibly minor, and is borne only by the people who eat the cheese. (Not that I'd enjoy a bout of Listeria, but the odds are so low...) The vacuum pack will help with the smell, but not the legality. I would never encourage someone to smuggle, but the USDA inspector's aren't going to rifle through everyone's bag to find your cheese.

Fruits are a different story. They can carry bugs that could potentially cause millions of dollars in damage to crops, even if you live nowhere near farm areas. It's just not a good idea to bring them back. Preserves and the like are fine. See the USDA plant and animal guide for more information.

The best news is that my favorite preserved fruit, wine is just fine to bring back in essentially unlimited quantities. Just recently my wife and I came back from Germany with 16 bottles of wine, which we declared, giving the approximate value of several hundred dollars. To save you the math, that's a total of ten liters over the nominal two liters that a couple is permitted. We were waved through without a second glance. As long as it's for personal use, it is absolutely permitted and the duty, if they even bother to charge it, is quite small. There's a nice little law that says the government isn't permitted to collect fees that cost more to collect than they yield in revenue. So they just don't bother. Nice, huh?

Walt
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JustMe



Joined: 13 Apr 2005
Posts: 213
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 12:53 am    Post subject: Re: Well, it depends Reply with quote

Wish they had that law in Canada!
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creampuff



Joined: 10 Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2005 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should ALWAYS declare you have food stuffs when you go through American customs. Don't bring in any meat products that are not canned or any fresh fruit or veggies. Vacuum pack your cheese and just list it as cheese on the form (you do need to specify what kinds of food you are bringing in). I suspect they are looking for major importers, not personal use, unless they catch you lying on your customs forms.

At San Francisco airport and others, if you declare food (even teas and spices) your belongings go through a special xray at customs. If all is as you say, no problem, welcome to the U.S.

If you don't declare food, many customs offices use dogs to sniff it out.
If is not worth the risk for the very trivial extra time.

By the way, whenever I have been over the limit and had to pay duty, even a few dollars, they've collected it! It's still not a big deal, though.

Good luck
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creampuff



Joined: 10 Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 5:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before my recent trip I checked with the USDA. Here is the sum total of their email response to me:

Pls look @ the website: www.fda.gov. You can also contact the US Customs
office @ 202-354-1000 or call toll free on 1-877-US-CUSTOMS. Their
website: www.cbp.gov.

Hope this info helps.
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2005 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now even if the food is canned or jarred you will be fined. I got a lecture from a very scary US customs agent recently and was lucky to escape without the fine of $100.
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wnissen



Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Posts: 13
Location: Livermore, CA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erin wrote:
Now even if the food is canned or jarred you will be fined.

Erin,

That sounds terrible. May I ask what type of food it was that they objected to?

Walt
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trilobyte



Joined: 31 Jul 2005
Posts: 39
Location: Athens, Georgia, USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last December when I came back from France I overheard the customs agent talking to the woman in front of me and he told her, as he was confiscating her vaccuum packed meat and cheese, that she needed some sort of certification stamp from the vendor. I really have no idea how that works but I'm, sure it certifies that the US standards are met. This probably doesn't apply to pre-packaged, store-bought products. Anyway, just to add to the confusion.

On a more positive note. I had the same experience as wnissen. I brought back three bottles of wine, which is 2 more than allowed without paying a tariff, declared them all and customs just waved me through.
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sas7410



Joined: 20 Aug 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Maine, USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2005 11:57 pm    Post subject: What cheeses can we bring back to the US? Reply with quote

I always bring smelly cheese back and declare it and have never had it confiscated...
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VictoriaLH



Joined: 17 May 2005
Posts: 87
Location: Madison WI

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2005 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OH MAN don't even get me started on the customs battle I had once with some power crazed jerk in St Louis! Apologies to anyone who lives there, but they have the meanest customs agents ever. This massive jerk was dead set on taking away my Italian Parmesan, and I knew I was permitted to keep it. He kept yelling at me "Have you ever been out of the counry before, are you an American citizen? Don't you know the law?" When asked where I got the idea I could bring hard cheese back into the country, I replied "your website" He was so mad but had to let me keep my cheese. He did finally find an illegal garlic braid and charged me $100.00 for that. I always love flying thru Chicago where they give you a cheery "Welcome Home" and look for bigger fish to fry, like drug smugglers. As long as you are honest and declare everything, don't bring fresh produce or plants, or unripened cheese or meat products, they don't hassle you. Even the people who were caught by the beagle brigade in Chicago with fresh fruit were treated respectfully. I wish they could give a course to other agents in how to deal with the public.

My favorite part of the whole St Louis debacle was how my husband was slowly backing away from me the entire time the shouting match was going on! Make sure you know what you can and can't bring, then stick to your guns. Some people just want to intimidate you.
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bennettsleg



Joined: 11 Sep 2006
Posts: 13
Location: Stuck on the gravy train, staring across the fence at all the lovely green grass

PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting thread.

We're going to Chicago in January (wanted some proper snow for a change!) and will be bringing things through for our American friends. I thought that cheese would be a no-no, but now will print off the relevant pages from the FDA website and carry them with me just in case!

Glad to know that wine seems to be ok.
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Randysea



Joined: 13 Oct 2006
Posts: 26
Location: Paris and Seattle

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Several years ago I had a long conversation with a knowledgable USDA inspector at Chicago customs. She clarified the confusion over rules for importing cheeses. The reason there`s nothing on the USDA website is that the one rule is from the FDA, and well hidden in their site.

The rule is that cheeses made from raw milk must be aged for 6 months before being brought into the US. As far as I could learn, this is because of a disease that hasn`t actually been seen as a result of eating cheese for decades, and then there were only a few cases, not in the US. I think I found the rule under a commercial import category, although technically it would apply to individuals as well

She said the USDA doesn`t enforce the FDA rule, although Customs could. However, it would be a rare customs official who understood exactly what the rule was. (Thus, the unpredictable behavior of Customs officials mentioned above.) She said there shouldn`t be any problem importing cheeses, although she advised me that smelly cheeses could be more of a problem - practically if not legally.

So what I have done on at least a half dozen trips is have my cheeses very well packed and I declare them as "aged cheeses." I have never had this questioned at Chicago or Dulles customs.

Most recently I`ve been having my cheeses vacuum packed. Ferme St. Aubin on the Ile St. Louis will do it for you. My favorite cheese shop, Alléosse on rue Poncelet near pl. des Ternes, doesn`t have a vacuum machine. However, if they are not too busy they will take you to a nearby butcher where, for the trivial price of the plastic, they will vacuum pack the cheeses.
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