Bringing Packaged Meats into the US

Reading the Customs / TSA websites, it seems a bit unclear about bringing meats into the US. What I have understood so far, is that as long as I tell TSA that I have it, and that they are labeled & vacuumed packed, and not from a country with BSE, it is ok. Anyone have some experiences with this? Would like to bring some sausages to Ca. and know I can find labled, vacuum packed ones, that don't need refrigeration. Will I have problems with these?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24175 posts

Jo, I checked the CBP and a few other websites, and agree that the information is a bit non-specific. I wasn't able to check the APHIS (USDA) website due to the government shutdown. This CBP website had one section that didn't look too encouraging. This is the website:,-poultry-or-pork%2Fswine-products-into-the-u.s. Scroll down to the paragraph that starts "The short and sweet answer.....", which states "NO" regarding Sausage products. I suspect that in many cases the decision will rest with the screening officer, but they typically tend to bin meat products. One of the issues with Sausages is that they may contain beef, pork or poultry, which makes the situation more complicated. The website also states "Other then the above general guidelines, it is impossible to advise you in this forum about the admissibility of specific food items because it is so susceptible to change." Therefore I'm not sure you'll be able to find many answers online. In the same situation, I wouldn't bring the Sausages as the probability of them being binned is too high. Good luck!

Posted by Brian
Silverdale, WA
43 posts

I had my Maultaschen and Nürnberger sausages confiscated a few years ago when coming from Germany into the US. Both were vacuume packed etc. Customs didn't seem to care about the packaging, type of meat or anything...only that is was "meat." That was a bummer as I only ended up with my Spätzle and knufnoodle (sp?) sides.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

Jo, i sent home some Landjagers from germany. they were declared in the box and they all made it back to the USA. I also brought with me 1 package via plane and no issues. your mileage may vary tho. happy trails.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

I asked about this once when coming back to U.S. from Canada and the border guard said sausage was okay as long as it didn't have goat or sheep meat in it. Since then we have always brought back, and d, garlic sausage, Ukranian sausage, Ukranian garlic sausage, etc. No one has ever inspected it. I have a suspicion the final determination may depend on the individual customs person. I definately know you can't bring canned haggis back from Scotland.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

We routinely bring back all kinds of tinned and plastic-wrapped stuff. Chorizo comes back from Spain by the ton just wrapped in a plastic bag. Every once in a while the white sec stuff from France comes home. We almost lost reindeer sausage once, but the guy took my word that it was from Norway and not Sweden. Don't ask me what an inch means or how the critters know. As long as you declare the stuff, the most they can do is confiscate it without penalty.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1852 posts

Based solely on Ed and Monte's experience, I would suspect that dried, shelf stable sausages are getting through, and fresh, raw ones are not. Pepperoni, Spanish chorizo, and smoked Kielbasa may be OK, but not fresh bratwurst or Polish. This would be similar to aged cheese like Parmesan being allowed in, but not a fresh, soft Mozzarella. But my opinion or Ed's experience will not carry much weight with the border guard. Just don't spend more than you want to lose.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2091 posts

No meat. A couple of years ago we crossed back into the US via ferry from Victoria BC. The US customs agents were targeting dog people and confiscating the dog kibble type of dog food. They may be paranoid about "mad cows".

Posted by stan
Kansas City
1209 posts

I have been told by a friend who does these inspections at a major airport in the US that they will confiscate any and all meat products they find. Regardless of packaging or condition. He said that they know what to ask and look for based on where the flight originates. That is the whole reason for their presence.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5690 posts

Oh, I can find what I need in the US to make my own Green Sauce. That shouldn't be a problem at all, though I prefer using it to make a Frankfurt Schnitzel. Guess I will leave the wurst at home this trip.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2832 posts

I think what the issue comes down to is that the actual import rules are rather complicated and are primarily targeted at larger import transactions where the time can be taken to review paperwork and supporting information presented to verify product. At immigration checkpoints, time is limited and I suspect some lack of "expertise" as well, this means that there will be variation in enforcement (Both in what is allowed and if you are checked) and that basic guidelines or rules of thumb are followed, as opposed to specific requirements. One of those typically is "No Meats", though there seems to be an exception for canned meats specifically (maybe it OK under the "canned goods OK" rule). There are meats allowed in, but those imports require verification, possibly USDA approvals, and other information you will not have. I always food items and have them every trip(Check the box on the customs card, plus write in individual items on the back) and most of the time the INS agent just passes me through. If I get by with something I shouldn't (or I guess if I should), it is likely just the INS agent not knowing better. On occassion I am sent over to talk to the USDA people (the Beagles can invite you over as well, I have never been caught by them though), they should know the rules, but still they generalize as well.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5690 posts

I also think there is a difference between fresh food items, like uncooked sausages, and those that are cured or dried. Plus it says they have to be in labeled and sealed packages. Looking at getting Lebkuchen now, and knödel packages & red sauer cabbage so I can make a couple of dinners.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
399 posts

For those of you having bad luck bringing in food from Germany, try this website:
They stock all kinds of German foods, some imported and some made here.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5690 posts

What? You can't bring in Lebkuchen? What do all those people do with those hearts they buy at the Oktoberfest and the Christmas markets?

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

It also matters where you are taking it. I don't know all the state laws but Customs also has to enforce state laws (e.g. California is very picky about bringing in wines). I've seen cans of pasta taken because of the meat they contained (presumably from a country with Mad Cow). I've always used no meat or meat products as a general rule but I know that isn't always the case. You're right though, as long as you declare it you won't get in trouble. That doesn't mean it won't be confiscated or that you won't be sent to secondary inspection - which wastes time at the airport.

Posted by Mary Cat
San Diego, Ca, USA
2 posts

Hi, We returned last June to San Diego with canned Salmon from Russia and it was allowed through customs, no problem. I had bought a stick of salami in Italy with the intention of bringing it home, but was afraid that it would not be allowed, so we had it for a picnic. At customs after the salmon was checked, I asked if the salami would have been allowed and they told me no. Glad we enjoyed it rather than having customs take it.

Posted by Robert
891 posts

The last couple of times the inspectors seemed to have been most concerned about pork (which we didn't have) for some reason. We did bring back canned and jarred foie gras and rilletes from France. In the distant past I did have a sealed Hungarian salami confiscated after the inspector looked closely at it; either to find key coding, or to see whether he'd like it for dinner.