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Bringing Agricultural Products Into the United States

If you’ve had food, plants or souvenirs taken away by an inspector at an international airport, border crossing, or seaport, we want you to understand the reasons.

Certain items brought into the United States from foreign countries are restricted according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. Prohibited agricultural items can harbor plant pests and foreign animal diseases that could seriously damage America’s crops, livestock, and the environment – and a large sector of our country’s economy.

All travelers entering the United States are REQUIRED to DECLARE meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, animals, as well as plant and animal products (including soup or soup products) they may be carrying. The declaration must cover all items carried in checked baggage, carry-on luggage, or in a vehicle.

Upon examination of plants, animal products, and associated items, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at the ports of entry will determine if these items meet the entry requirements of the United States. Always DECLARE agricultural items by checking “Yes” on Question 11 of the CBP Declaration Form 6059B. Also check “Yes” if you have been on a farm or in close proximity of livestock, as an agriculture specialist may need to check your shoes or luggage for traces of soil that could harbor foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth.

Avoid Fines and Delays

Prohibited items that are not declared by passengers are confiscated and disposed of by CBP agriculture specialists. More importantly, civil penalties may be assessed for failure to declare prohibited agricultural products and may range up to $1,000 per first-time offense for non-commercial quantities. If the items are determined to be for commercial use, violations will be assessed at a much higher rate. The same fines apply to prohibited agricultural products sent through international mail.

General Guidelines:

Fruits, Vegetables, and Plants

Depending on the country of origin, some fruits, vegetables, and plants may be brought into the United States without advance permission, provided they are declared, inspected, and found free of pests. However, certain plants and ANY plant parts intended for growing (propagative) require a foreign phytosanitary certificate in advance. For information on certificates, contact the USDA/APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990 Also, check the Information Resources section at the end of this notice for details.

Meat and Animal Products and Byproducts

Many fresh, dried, and some canned meats and meat byproducts are prohibited entry into the United States from foreign countries because of the continuing threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease), and other animal diseases. If meat from restricted countries is included as an ingredient in a product (e.g., beef broth), the product is usually prohibited.

Because regulations concerning meat and meat byproducts change frequently, travelers should contact the consulate or local agricultural office in the country of origin for up-to-date information on the disease status of that country.

Animal hunting trophies, game animal carcasses, and hides are severely restricted. To find out specifics and how to arrange to bring them into the United States, contact USDA/APHIS Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE) at (301) 734-3277, via email at: AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov or VS-Live.Animals_Import.Permits@aphis.usda.gov or on the Web at Veterinary Services - Safeguarding Animal Health (Import/Export). The import and export of wild (and endangered) animals is regulated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  For a list of endangered species check the following: http://www.cites.org.

Live Animals and Birds

Live animals and birds may enter the United States subject to certification, certain permits, inspection, and quarantine rules that vary greatly with the type of animal and its origin and can also be subject to restrictions by some state departments of agriculture.

For general information and permit application, contact APHIS/ NCIE at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990.  Contact the CDC via e-mail at CDCAnimalImports@cdc.gov or visit CDC's Animal Importation website.  You may also access the National Center for Infectious Diseases on the Web - Traveler's Health.

Other Biological Materials

A strict permitting process governs most organisms, cells and cultures, antibodies, vaccines and related substances, whether of plant or animal origin. Biological specimens of plant pests, in preservatives, or dried, may be imported without restriction, but are subject to inspection upon arrival in the United States. This is done to confirm the nature of the material and to make sure it is free of “hitchhiking” plant pests or diseases. These items must ALL be declared and presented for inspection upon entering the United States. For information and a permit application, contact NCIE:  AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov or VS-Live.Animals_Import.Permits@aphis.usda.gov or on the Web at Veterinary Services - Safeguarding Animal Health (Import/Export).

Soil, Sand and Minerals

Soil-borne organisms threaten both plants and animals. If you visited a farm or ranch in a foreign country, agricultural specialists may have to examine and disinfect your shoes or clothing. Vehicles must also be cleaned of any soil. No soil or earth of any kind is allowed into the United States without a permit issued in advance by USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit. Pure sand, such as a small container of decorative beach sand, is usually allowed. Always check with the permit unit in advance for details.

Please - Do Your Part to Help Protect American Agriculture

When planning your trip, keep in mind that regulations change frequently around the world, depending on outbreaks of plant and animal diseases. So, whether or not the item in question seems to be one that is permitted, travelers are still responsible for declaring those items and presenting them for inspection upon returning to the United States.

DECLARE all agriculture-related products when entering the United States. General List of Approved Food and Plant Products

Products from Canada and Mexico

Many products grown in Canada or Mexico are allowed to enter the United States. This includes many vegetables and fruits; however, seed potatoes from Canada currently require a permit and fresh tomatoes and bell peppers are prohibited from Canada. Additionally, stone fruit, apples, mangoes, oranges, guavas, sopote, cherimoya and sweet limes from Mexico require a permit. Avocados from Mexico that are peeled, halved and have the seed removed are enterable but are subject to inspection.

Information Resources for Travelers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently collects import duties, carries out immigration inspection and clearance of passengers and carries out inspection and clearance of agricultural items (in commercial and passenger areas) at U.S. ports of entry. This website contains a wealth of information on both import and export regulations and requirements for many items and commodities. From the site’s home page, click on “Questions” and search the database for answers on a specific topic, or click on the “Imports”, “Exports” or “Travel” section for detailed information. APHIS-PPQ Permit Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, can provide information about import requirements and permits for plants, plant parts, fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural items. Call the unit at (301) 851-2046 or (877) 770-5990, or visit the web at Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

You can also write:
USDA, APHIS
Plant Protection and Quarantine
4700 River Road, Unit 136
Riverdale, MD 20737-1236, Attention: Permit Unit

APHIS Veterinary Services, National Center for Import and Export (NCIE) can provide information on the importation of live animals and animal products. Call (301) 851-3300, email at: AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov or VS-Live.Animals_Import.Permits@aphis.usda.gov or go to the Web at Veterinary Services - Safeguarding Animal Health (Import/Export).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the import and export of wild and endangered plants and animals and related products. For information, access the USFWS web site at U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates importation of certain animal species and provides specific regulations for nonhuman primates and pets. Contact the CDC in Atlanta at (404) 639-3311 or (800) 231-4636. You may also access the National Center for Infectious Diseases on the web - Traveler's Health.