Bringing Gifts of Food and Drink into the US

When it comes to gift items and personal possessions brought through US border checkpoints, officials have seen it all. But that doesn’t mean they will be lenient with you if you are trying to bring in items that are prohibited. If you are traveling to the US to visit family or friends you will probably have a long list of food and drink items to bring with you – favorite foods from home, holiday specials, drinks you can’t get in the United States and many more. But it is important to realize you can’t bring everything.

Some food and drink items are best left at home. Others must be packed in your checked luggage. If the containers are above the permitted 3.4oz you need to pack them in your checked luggage. This includes, but is not limited to, spreads and dips, jams, jellies, salsa, sauces, soups, oils, vinegar, wine, beer and liquor. If you are carrying a gift basket that contains food items you may need to split this and put the liquid and sauce items in your checked baggage, for example salad dressings or pickles in liquid.

Bringing pies and cakes through the checkpoints is allowed but the items may be subject to extra checks. Remember that non-food gift items like colognes, perfumes and cosmetics are also subject to restrictions so pack these in your hold luggage to be sure.

Gifts can be wrapped but bear in mind that if something seems suspicious to border staff they may unwrap it to take a closer look. If you buy items in duty free or after the screening process these can be safely taken onboard the plane. If you have something you want to bring that isn’t on the list, it is best to ship it ahead or play safe and leave it at home.