Don’t forget to declare food products when going through customs

A few months ago fellow Boarding Area blogger Gary Leff posted about an incident with Delta, Global Entry, and a woman traveling to the US from Paris. It caught my eye and I’ve had it saved as a personal reminder because this woman 100% could have been me.

The passenger, a Global Entry member, was given an apple on her connecting flight from Paris to the US. She tucked it into her bag, thinking to eat it on her flight home to Denver. But she was selected for secondary screening, and the agent happened to be on a power trip. She asked if she could throw it away, and the agent’s response was, to ask if her trip to France was expensive, and  “It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500.”

Yikes.

In addition to the fine, the passenger could also lose her Global Entry status. She marked that she had no “agricultural products” on her Global Entry form, but of course an apple is fruit, an agricultural product.

If you’ve ever looked at one of my packing lists for international travel you know that I bring snacks every. single. time. There are a lot of very solid reasons for this, but half the time I pack those snacks and then don’t think about them again until I’ve returned home and am unpacking. It’s never occurred to me that this pre-packaged food could constitute an “agricultural item,” and I could totally see myself tossing an apple I get from the airline in my purse and then forgetting about it.

I’m starting my prep work for my fall travel to India, and I’ve got a link to this story saved on my packing list as a reminder. Declare food products when going through customs! Don’t take any chances with your Global Entry status! Worst case they give you additional screening for your granola bars. As long as you follow the rules, and declare everything necessary, you shouldn’t have any issues.

(If you’ve got some time, read the comments on Gary’s post. There’s a pretty interesting debate about who is at fault.)

Readers, did you relate to this story? Do you take snacks with you on international trips? Have you had any issues with customs?

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Comments

  1. Fresh fruit and uncooked meat is a huge No-No. That was basically the only thing they actually told us at our Global Entry interview. We always travel with snacks, for a while we declared them but Customs agents both in the US and elsewhere told us we didn’t need to. Our problem is that we seem to clear customs in a different airport every time, and every one is different. The last time we did declare them, it delayed us at least an hour because we were in the global entry and no checked bags fast-track and declaring our snacks pushed us over into the secondary screening line at IAH.

  2. Packaged food like unopened kind bars are ok. It’s unoackaged food that sets off alarm bells. I once asked a CBP officer on my outbound flight from us to Italy about porcini mushrooms and he said it’s ok as long as they are dried and have no dirt on them – preferably packaged or vacuum packaged

  3. I got a personal tour of the Atlanta airport basement because I brought a banana from Mexico. I had a 4 hour layover and brought all my own food. Then I finally get to the special luggage scanner in that empty lower level and put my suitcase through, but the woman says, I don’t see the banana. I said, that’s because it’s in my food bag, and I showed it to her. She was like, okay, that’s fine. Didn’t even confiscate it.

    I do try to eat all of my fruit before landing, and appreciate when the flight attendants remind us of that. But my TSA guy was very nice, as was the x-ray attendant in the lower level. I hadn’t gotten my global entry number yet, but that guy in your story was just being an asshole.

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