Bringing/Sending Food and Alcohol to the U.S.

See below our Frequently Asked Questions on bringing/sending Food and Alcohol to the U.S.:

If you are a private individual who wishes to send beverage and food items to the U.S., you should be aware that some items are highly restricted, particularly food items with meat products, including soup mixes, bullion, sausages, tinned meats, etc., and fresh produce. As a general rule, candies, condiments, spices, coffee and teas that are commercially packaged are ok, however bulk teas or spices, etc. are subject to inspection and if they are found to have insects, they may be seized and destroyed.

Food that is sent to an individual in the U.S. for personal use (i.e. not for resale) by a business is subject to special requirements of the Food and Drug Administration.

Businesses that send goods to the U.S. must file prior notice. (please refer to A prior notice may be filed on-line if the goods are being sent through the postal service. (Foods sent from an individual to an individual for personal use or as a bona fide gift are not subject to the Prior Notice requirement). When filing prior notice, you will be asked to provide the following:

  • The identity of the article, which includes the FDA product code (if known), common name, trade or brand name, quantity, etc.
  • The manufacturer, shipper, or growers’ name and address, e-mail address, telephone and fax number (if known).
  • The country from which the article originates and is shipped or mailed.
  • Additional information may be required if the goods are intended for commercial use in the United States.
  • When businesses file prior notice for a mail shipment, they will be given a PN satisfied number. If the goods are going to be sent via mail, the PN number should be provided at the time of mailing.
  • If the goods are being sent via rail or air, prior notice must be filed and satisfied 4-hours prior to the goods arrival in the U.S. If the goods are being sent via vessel, prior notice must be filed and satisfied 8-hours prior to the goods arrival in the U.S. Prior notice can be submitted via the FDA Web Portal at
  • For additional information on the Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response Act regulations and prior notice requirements, please contact the Food and Drug Administration 1-800-216-7331, if outside the U.S. call (301) 575-0156

U.S. Department of Agriculture has strict regulations concerning the importation into the United States of food and agricultural products. Imported foods are also subject to FDA requirements and may be seized upon inspection if, in the opinion of the FDA, they pose a health risk of any kind. Please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for additional information.

If you are not sure, if you can bring a certain product, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture will be able to assist you.

In general many fruits and vegetables are either prohibited from entering the United States or require an import permit (for commercial importers) or a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin. Every fruit or vegetable must be declared to a Customs Border Patrol Officer and must be presented for inspection – no matter how free of pests it appears to be. Failure to declare food products can result in a $10,000 fine.

Meats, livestock, poultry, and their products are either prohibited or restricted from entering the United States, depending on the animal disease condition in the country of origin. Fresh meat is generally prohibited from most countries. Canned, cured, or dried meat is severely restricted from some countries.

Bakery items, candy, chocolate, and cured cheese are generally admissible. Canned goods and goods in vacuum packed jars (other than those containing meat or poultry products) are also generally admissible if being imported for personal use.

Dairy items such as milk, yogurt, butter are generally admissible, although this is subject to change, depending on disease outbreaks. Eggs may be admissible, although frequent outbreaks of Exotic Newcastles Disease and avian flu make it very likely that they will be denied entry. Hard cured cheese such as parmesan or cheddar are generally admissible, soft cheeses such as brie and soft curd cheese and cheese in water(ricotta, feta, etc.) are not.

Fish, if it is for your personal use, is generally admissible.

Condiments such as oil, vinegar, mustard, catsup, pickles, syrup, honey, jelly, jam, etc., are generally admissible.

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. Disease and pest outbreaks, which impact the admissibility status of fresh and packaged food items, occur all over the world at a moments notice.

Failure to declare all food products can result in civil penalties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture establishes criteria for the admissibility of plant, dairy and meat products returning with travelers and they have the final say about what may be admitted into the U.S. Please refer to the USDA website for more information

Generally, one liter per person may be entered into the U.S. duty-free by travelers who are 21 or older. Additional quantities may be entered, although they will be subject to duty and IRS taxes.

Duty is generally 3% of value and the IRS excise tax is generally between 21-31cents per 750ml bottle of wine, 67 cents/champagne, and $2.14/ hard liquor.

It is illegal for travelers under the age of 21 to import alcohol – even as a gift.

The total amount of alcohol you may enter the country with is primarily determined by the laws of the state where you will arrive back into the U.S. Each State sets the amount of alcohol a person may bring in without a license or permit from that state. Travelers must check with the individual States.

There is no federal limit on the amount of alcohol a traveler may import into the U.S. for personal use, however, large quantities might raise the suspicion that the importation is for commercial purposes.

Duty rates on alcoholic beverages can be obtained in Chapter 22, “Beverages, Spirits and Vinegar,” in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. (PDF, 160kb)

Alcoholic beverages purchased in duty free shops are subject to duty when you bring them with you into the United States.

You are not permitted to ship alcoholic beverages by mail to the United States per U.S. postal laws.

If you are interested in importing food for commercial purposes, you may want to consult with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) import specialist at the U.S. port of entry through which you intend to import. The import specialist can let you know what is required, which varies depending on the type of food, the country of origin of the food, as well as whether or not there are quota or other restrictions on what you want to import.

As an importer, you have the option of hiring a Customs house broker to file your entry with CBP, or you can do it yourself – although there are so many details to handle when importing food items, we strongly advise using a broker. To obtain a list of brokers, please refer to

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines the admissibility of food being imported into the United States and CBP enforces those laws. All commercial imports of food and beverage products require the filing of Prior Notice (please see above) with FDA, and foreign manufacturers and/or distributers of food products must register with the FDA before their goods may be admitted.

(These requirements DO NOT apply to food accompanying a traveler into the U.S. or being sent by an individual – not a business – for personal use.)

CBP will not release food shipments without proof that prior notice has been filed with FDA. Therefore, it is imperative that the PN satisfied number is submitted to CBP along with the entry documents. The PN satisfied number should be annotated on the shipping documents (i.e. bill of lading or airway bill).

For additional information on the Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response Act regulations and assistance with filing prior notice, please contact the Food and Drug Administration 1-800-216-7331, if outside the U.S. call (301) 575-0156.

In addition to the prior notice requirement, once the goods arrive in the U.S., FDA may collect a sample or tell Customs Border Patrol to proceed with releasing the shipment. If a sample is in violation of FDA regulations, you will receive a Notice of Detention from FDA. To find out the status of food that has been detained by FDA, call the number referenced on the detention notice.

If the product you wish to import is a plant or farm animal product, you should consult with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at

To inquire about the admissibility of meats, livestock, poultry and their products intended for resale, contact the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Import Division,

For fruits, and vegetables contact the Plant division of APHIS

Baked goods, seafood, canned and packaged goods, candy and chocolate, etc. must be labeled with country of origin, ingredients, and nutrition information.