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A List of Food Items You Can and Cannot Bring Back from Italy


Imagine going through customs at an American Airport and the Customs Agent stops you in your tracks and asks if you have any agricultural products to declare. It can be a frightening experience. I know because it happened to me. I had cheese in my carry-on and olive oil and wine in my checked bag. At the time I thought I thought I was being a model traveler and abiding by the rules. But when you are in front of the guy holding your fate in your hands - the doubt (and panic) set in. Turns out I was fine, but the experience was different for my sister who brought something to the United States that was prohibited. They whisked her away to a private room for what seemed like hours. We worried if we would make our connection, and all kinds of scenarios about her in some airport prison went through our minds.


Rather than spend a fortune on fines, a lot of time in the customs office, and the anxiety that goes with all of that, here is a list of food that you can and cannot bring into the states from Italy. Here is a partial list I took directly from the USDA website. For the detailed list (know before you go) you can visit the USDA website here



Fruits and Vegetables

Almost all fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, "home" canned/bottled) are prohibited due to the pests and viruses that they may harbor. Even if they offer you them on cruise ships and/or on your flight home, it is best to not bring them with you.


Here is a list of dried fruits and vegetables that are allowed but must be declared:

  • Beans

  • Dates

  • Figs

  • Nuts (but not chestnuts or acorns)

  • Okra

  • Peas

  • Raisins

  • Szechwan peppercorns

In general, every fruit or vegetable must be declared to a Customs Border Patrol Officer and must be presented for inspection – no matter how free of pests it appears to be.



Meats

Cured hams (prosciutto, Serrano ham, Iberian ham) and salami from any area within France, Germany, Italy, and Spain may NOT be brought into the United States by travelers. These items may only enter in commercial shipments because there are special restrictions that require additional certification and documentation.


Dairy

Certain items may enter from any country. These items need to be commercially wrapped, labeled, and unopened. These include:

  • Solid hard or soft cheeses (as long as the cheese does not contain meat or pour like a liquid i.e. ricotta or cottage cheese)

  • Butter

  • Butter oil

Coffee

USDA’s requirements for the entry of coffee/coffee beans carried by a traveler differ according to the specific form of the product and location of the port of entry:

  • Roasted Coffee: Travelers are permitted to bring unlimited quantities of roasted coffee in their luggage without restriction through any U.S. port of entry. However, as with all agricultural products, you must declare the product at entry.

  • Coffee Seeds or Other Plant Parts intended for planting are prohibited entry into Hawaii or Puerto Rico. Additionally, some varieties are protected as threatened or endangered species and have specific restrictions because of their status.

Honey

Generally, travelers can bring in comb honey, royal jelly, bee bread, or propolis if it is intended for personal consumption.


Nuts

Nuts are allowed entry if they have been boiled, cooked, ground, oven dried, pureed, roasted, or steamed.



Spices

Most dried spices can be imported except for orange, lemon, lime, and other citrus leaves and seeds, and many vegetable and fruit seeds. While not explicitly prohibited, we also advise against bringing lemongrass that is not part of a commercially packaged product into the United States. Lemongrass needs to be inspected for plant rusts, which could lead to Customs delays and possible seizure.


Again, my list is a partial list from the USDA website that I feel encompasses what most travelers from Italy want to bring home. For the detailed list (know before you go) you can visit the USDA website here


As long as you declare all the agricultural products you are bringing with you, you will not face any penalties—even if an inspector determines that they cannot enter the country. Failure to declare food products can result in a $10,000 fine.



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