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Claiming foodstuffs on your landing card...

Not sure where else to put this, so just thought I'd see if anyone else ran into this.

When we were coming home to Nova Scotia from Europe a few weeks ago, of course we have to fill out our landing card and show it at passport check. Never before have we checked the 'bringing food into the country' because we always thought it was specific to milk, meat, fruits, veggies (like you would buy at a market) and not mass produced items. The border guard said...you didn't check off food - are you bringing anything in? We're like...fudge, chocolate, cookies (all mass produced). She said - you should always check off the 'bringing food into the country' box even for mass produced stuff - because 'if the detector dog was on duty, you could get fines for not declaring food'.

So, that's the first time we've been told that in our various flights. Is this a new rule? Was she unaware of the particulars? Just wondering if anyone else was told this...? Thanks!

Posted by
487 posts

So you are asking if the Border Guard who does this job every day "was unaware of the particulars" and random people on the internet should have better information? I have seen dogs sniffing luggage in certain airports and they would ask people to open their luggage if the dog smelled anything so, yes this sounds like a reasonable request.

Posted by
3933 posts

No...I'm saying every other time we've flown, we weren't told this...never checked foodstuffs, never asked if we had anything...so I'm wondering if anyone else has been told this...geez...so yeah, random people on the internet can tell me if they've had this experience. My mom has also never checked the box, never asked about it, wasn't asked/told about it when she came home 5 days after us, to the same airport, and with mass produced fudge, pastries, etc in her bag.

Posted by
3111 posts

We've checked the box when bringing back some food items; chocolate, tinned (not glass or vacuumed sealed) fois gras, olive oil, pasta. The agents have really only commented on the chocolate where they've laughed and told us they might need to have some, wink wink.

Posted by
2832 posts

The US customs form asks if you are bringing in "fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, food, insects".

That is pretty broad. I always carry almonds for snacking so I answer "yes". The guy checking the form and asks what I have and just laughs when I answer almonds.

Posted by
5786 posts

You may want to rely on information from the Canadian government rather than American (USA) anecdotal experiences returning into the US. See: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/declare-eng.html

Food, plants, animals and related products

You must declare all food, plants, animal and related products that
you import into Canada. Failure to do so can result in your good being
confiscated or you may be subject to a fine or prosecution.

Some of these items are prohibited or regulated because they can carry
foreign animal and plant pests and diseases. Refer to the Canadian
Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) What Can I Bring Into Canada in Terms
Of Food, Plant, Animal and Related Products.

Of special note:

Products allowed into Canada from countries other than the United
States

This is a list of commonly imported products and the guidelines for
importing them from countries other than the United States. Because
pest and disease situations are constantly changing, these
requirements may be adjusted at any time.

If you are returning with alcoholic products, the quantity is important. An American friend driving across the border had a gallon size box of wine in plain sight in the back of his car. He forgot about the wine and didn't declare it. The Canadian customs official saw the wine resulting is a big fine (more than the wine was worth).

Posted by
6649 posts

FYI, we just flew back to US from Heathrow last week, and they told us that all US citizens no longer need to fill out that form. They did ask for us to answer that question at the Global Entry kiosk, but I don't know how they handled for non GE folks.

Posted by
2018 posts

I ran into the same thing last year at my home airport, Denver. I asked the question because I almost always bring home candy, chocolate, cookies, etc. And was told to always declare it as it IS food. I hadn't declared it before but thought I'd ask-silly me. Maybe I'm sorry as now I always note "yes" and have to make the short trek to the Ag guy after collecting my bag and tell him I'm bringing home candy, chocolate, cookies, etc. Like some of the posters above, they just wave me through. Frankly, the agent told me I was risking my Global Entry status if I didn't declare the "food" I was bringing home.

Posted by
8987 posts

Funny story.....a few years ago for reasons unknown, immigration at Newark Airport were doing hand searches of baggage on all incoming passengers. Needless to say their were long lines for people waiting for this, and along the line one of the agents told travelers that "this was you last chance to amend your landing cards and declare things you might have "forgotten". Every single person I could see in front of me whipped out their card and checked that box, or wrote in something else:)

Posted by
419 posts

On two recent return trips from London, my experience was similar to Andi's. I answered "yes" then told the agent "cookies from Fortnum and Mason" and got waved through.

Posted by
5869 posts

I would agree with the border agent tht as the question is worded, food includes anything other than medication that you put in your mouth.

This was the same in the US, and still is if your port of entry uses the paper form. but I notice that if the airport uses the new electronic kiosks (not just Global Entry, but all entries) the question is worded differently. I could not find the exact wording, but it now does not include all foods but focuses on meat, cheeses, dairy and other potential restricted items.

Posted by
3933 posts

Ok, I found a photo online for the specific wording...

Meat/meat products; dairy products; fruits; vegetables; seeds; nuts; plants and animals or their parts/products; cut flowers; soil; wood/wood products; birds; insects.

Upon thinking why we were asked this time, we did say we were in the Netherlands, so perhaps she was thinking we may have had tulip or other plant bulbs (as much as I would have liked to get tulips, the deer just decimate them). Or maybe wooden clogs? I just thought it strange we've never been asked specifically before, nor was my mother asked at all when she came home 5 days later.

Does fruit count if it's in jam/jelly or a Cookie? I had a tiny jar of jam that they gave us with breakfast at heathrow that I brought home...totally forgot about it. Do nuts in fudge count? What about a cookie with pumpkin and sunflower seeds (like I took over to Europe as a snack)?

Posted by
5786 posts

Nicole,

Your country's Canada Border Services Agency web page seems to provide very explicit guidance as to declaring food plants, animals and related products:
http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/declare-eng.html#_s19a

I Declare: A guide for residents returning to Canada

The information in this guide provides an overview of the laws,
restrictions, entitlements and obligations that apply to Canadian
residents returning to Canada following international travel of less
than one year.

Food, plants, animals and related products

You must declare all food, plants, animal and related products that you import into Canada. Failure to do so can result in your good
being confiscated or you may be subject to a fine or prosecution.
[Bold emphasis added.}

Does fruit count if it's in jam/jelly or a Cookie?
A "cookie" would be a food product and would therefore need to be declared. Although you will need to declare the cookie (or generically declare food), the cookie would seem to be allowed provided it doesn't contain meat and you are bring back less than 20 kg per person. For information on what you can bring into Canada (provided you declare):
http://inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/travellers/what-can-i-bring-into-canada-/eng/1389648337546/1389648516990

Posted by
327 posts

Nicole, as a Canadian, I can tell you this is not a new rule. I always check the box on the card that I have "food" with me and Canada Border Services (CBS) always asks me what the food is. I simply state that it's "macadamia nut chocolates, or candy, or cookies, or passion fruit jam or granola bars", for example, and CBS writes that item on the card and away I go to collect my luggage. I've never been asked to show any of these types of food products.

And, yes, the detector dogs do have good noses! My travel companion once had an apple in her bag that she intended to eat on the inbound flight and the CBS beagle at the Vancouver airport sat down beside her - no fine that time but the apple was confiscated.

Posted by
3683 posts

Chocolate, by the way, qualifies as a foodstuff. But declaring anything does not mean it will be seized. An essential part of the equation seems to be whether the goods have been processed. But it is all up to the border guard. And that officer of the law makes the decision, no matter what friends and rumours may say -- about food or any other matter at the border. It helps to be polite and respectful.

Posted by
3491 posts

I fail to see the confusion or why it is a problem to check yes. Do you have anything with you that you can eat? If yes, then check the box that you have food. It is safer to check the box than not and you could be in major trouble if you don't check the box and they find something.

Just because the border agents have never asked specifically before doesn't mean anything changed. I always bring things that are food back with me from my trips. I always check the box. With the small amounts of things I have with me, and the fact that nothing is on the list of forbidden foods, the border guards just wave me through. Only once have I been asked to show what food I have.

Posted by
6872 posts

I'm flying from SF to Vancouver soon...I plan on buying some delicious crusty sourdough boule at SFO to take with me. I take it that I'll have to check the "food box" for the bread? I was also planning on taking some snacks like power bars, almonds, and the like for hiking trips on Vancouver Island. In the past, I have been really reticent to take any kind of food with me, but it's inevitable for this trip. At the same time, I'm also reticent to lengthen my trip due to a complete search of my bag...if it's a 5 minute thing, I don't mind though.

Posted by
351 posts

Agnes - all those things are food so yes you should declare that you have food. You're coming from the US, though, so there is very little chance that commercially packaged foods like power bars and nuts will be a problem.

Other than the bread, though, it's possible to buy all those things in Canada.

Posted by
5786 posts

At the same time, I'm also reticent to lengthen my trip due to a complete search of my bag...
The little dog will sit with his/her nose against the the bag in question wagging his or her tail. Then its a matter of locating the substance that attracted the little dog.

Checking the box doesn't mean that you cannot bring food into Canada. Just be prepared to describe the nature of the food products. Food rules as to what is allowed and what needs to be excluded from entry can be complicated and changing. For example, Canada updated on 16 March 2017 an alert regarding "Restriction on imports of live birds, bird products and by-products from states affected by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the United States".

Posted by
8293 posts

I seem to remember that the sniffer dogs can only be trained to detect one particular type of smell, i.e. meats, or cheeses, or narcotics or fresh produce etc. Thus if the cheese dog is on duty and you have undeclared cheeses or other dairy products, get ready to be fined. Of course, there is no telling what the specialty is of the dog approaching your luggage, which is all part of the fun.

Posted by
6872 posts

Will the beagle dog want to eat my delicious sourdough bread from SF? That's the only thing I really care about because I can't get that bread anywhere else :-)

Posted by
5786 posts

Agnes,
You are allowed:

Baked goods, candies, etc.

no goods containing meat up to 20 kilograms per person

So you are good to go as long as you keep the meatless baked goods under 44 pounds.

Posted by
327 posts

Agnes, the CBSA K9 will not care about your bread ...

The sniffer dogs are trained to detect certain types of goods, such as:
prohibited drugs;
prohibited weapons (e.g, guns);
currency over $10,000 (yes, they can smell money);
agricultural products (e.g., prohibited meat, fruits, dairy, etc.); and
data storage devices that might contain prohibited images.
The detector dogs find things that humans might not be able to find. They alert their human handlers when they find the scent that they have been specially trained to detect. The CBSA handlers inform other CBSA officers who are tasked with conducting the secondary inspection.

Posted by
2320 posts

I just brought back 4 lbs of Spar sesame cookies from Vienna in my carry-on, too fragile to check, and told the agent at SFO I had cookies and they just waved me through.

Posted by
13097 posts

Agnes, we take all kinds of food into Canada when we go camping or skiing there. As we pass through the border in a car, we are questioned and I always mention what we have---cooked meat, cereal, an orange, a quart of milk. Never had a problem going into Canada (just be careful with apples!). Coming back into the US, we got busted for that same orange (which we had bought in the US, but that din't matter).

Your San Francisco sourdough bread will be fine. Also power bars, trail mix, etc. Just say "yes" to food and declare them. But be very careful with fruit, particularly apples from the western US.

Posted by
2320 posts

Lola--the apples and oranges in Canada bit made me remember a trip I took from Seattle to Victoria via hydrofoil with my parents in the early 80s--my mom had about 5 lbs of them in her bag and was so upset when they were confiscated, and as we wandered the town we noticed vendors selling fruit and other snacks and mom was certain that's where they got their inventory, from US travellers

Posted by
351 posts

Lola - the border agent was obviously concerned about your vitamin C intake, if you'd kept the orange the whole trip. S/he was just trying to keep you from getting scurvy.

Posted by
13097 posts

Christa---I had the same problem with a bag of oranges when entering Canada 50 years ago---had to discard all we could not eat right on the spot. This was Ontario.

Now oranges from the US are allowed into Canada---at least in BC---- but that same orange is not allowed back into the US. No citrus is allowed. They explained the reason---Canada imports citrus from Asia as well as from the US. The Asian fruit is not allowed into the US, and we could not prove that our orange was a "natural born citizen" of the US--- the UPC sticker was gone.

I checked the customs regulations into Canada before our trip--but never thought to re-check the regulations for entering our own country from Canada.

Our next trip to Europe will actually have us flying into Canada ( Vancouver BC) to get home, so I will be sure I do not have ANY food.

Posted by
5786 posts

The American customs folks freak out about meat products entering the States from Canada. We returned to the States from Victoria by ferry back in 2008. the American customs officials checked every car with a dog(s) for dog food and confiscated a lot of dog food. There were a lot of dog cars turning into the pet care supply store in Port Angeles.