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International Moves for Foodies: What You Need to Know

For a culinarian, moving to another country represents a world of opportunity: The opportunity to try new foods that only locals really love, the opportunity to cook at home using exotic ingredients that may be hard to find (or non-existent) in their home towns, and the opportunity to experience a region’s geo-political history through spices. Unfortunately, it may also mean that the foods that felt like home may not be available, or ingredients that were once at every corner market may now become scarce commodities; which is why many opt to move their food, along with their cookware and clothes.

Of course, as with many things – moving food it’s not as easy as it sounds. Every country has its own set of restrictions on food imports, so be sure to check the rules set forth by the country you’re moving to. In the meantime, keep these general guidelines in mind when moving food.

  • Meats, even tinned, are not typically allowed.
  • Some cheeses, especially soft cheeses or those stored in liquid, are not generally allowed for import.
  • Fresh produce is inadmissible in many countries.
  • Nuts, including nut flours, are typically restricted.
  • Dried herbs and spices are typically less restricted than fresh varieties.
  • Pantry staples, like dried pasta, salt, and chocolate likely have the best odds of admission.

Those returning to the U.S. from other countries often face similar challenges when hoping to import the foods and ingredients they’ve grown to love. After, for instance, a decade in Morocco you may want to bring back ingredients for your specialty tagine. But can you? Below is a list of ingredients that are generally allowed for personal use:

  • Olive oil and other vegetable oils
  • Snacks – bread, cookies, crackers, cakes, and other baked and processed products
  • Candy & chocolate
  • Hard or semi-soft cheeses that do not contain meat
  • Butter and cultured milk products that are not stored in liquid or brine
  • Canned foods and food packed in jars – so long as they do not contain meat
  • Dried Fruit
  • Commercially canned or bottled juices
  • Commercially packaged tea
  • Dried spices – except orange, lemon, lime and other citrus leaves and seeds, lemongrass and many other fruit and vegetable seeds
  • Honey
  • Pasta
  • Rice that does not have the hull attached

For a complete list of foods that are admissible into the U.S. for personal use, please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site.