Border Control on Consumables

Jip Damen, Netherlands

What surprised me the most from travelling to the United States was the border control on consumables. Apparently one has to declare all the food, however few, he wishes to bring with him to the USA, not declaring can have penalties up to $10.000 as a consequence. Does it really matter if a single traveler brings some food with him? Why is the U.S. customs so strict on food specifically?

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The main reason the US is so rigorous with food control is in order to prevent spreading of pesticides and animal diseases. This is why especially plant-based products like fruits and vegetables and animal-based products, like meat are most often not allowed to bring into the US. On the other hand, products that are prepared and packaged, and even cheese (with commercial label) are generally allowed when declared. The US CPB (Customs and Border Protection) thinks meat, fruit and vegetables can be a thread to the economy and livestock industry, as they say:

“Agricultural pests and diseases are a threat to U.S. crop production and to the livestock industry. Some animal diseases can be highly contagious and could cause severe economic damage to livestock and result in losses in production, which could lead to increased costs for meat and dairy products. Plant pests and disease, as well as invasive plant material can cause crop loss and also damage lawns, ornamental plants, and trees.  Plant pest infestations can result in increased costs to consumers due to pest eradication efforts as well as lower crop yields.  High risk plant pest and animal disease outbreaks within the U.S. could also adversely affect the economy as a result of reduced trade of U.S. origin goods to countries around the world.”

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