Food&drink For Members

What are the rules on bringing cheese, meat and wine to the US from France?

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What are the rules on bringing cheese, meat and wine to the US from France?

Whether you're taking home a little taste of France at the end of a trip or want to introduce your American friends and family to the delights of French cheese, sausage and wine - here's what US customs regulations say.


Firstly, it's worth noting that provided you declare any food items on your US customs declaration form, you won't get in any kind of trouble.

The US Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service says; "As long as you declare all the agricultural products you are bringing with you, you will not face any penalties - even if an inspector determines that they cannot enter the country" - so the worst that can happen is that an item gets confiscated.

But the last thing you want is to spend precious euros on expensive cheeses, cured sausage or fine wines only to have your precious cargo seized by a border agent as soon as you land. So how can you avoid that happening?


The first thing to know is that solid/hard cheeses are generally fine. US Customs and Border Protection's latest guidance explicitly states that "solid cheese that does not contain meat" is admissible.

That means hard cheeses such as Comté or or Beaufort are fine.

When it comes to soft cheeses, the rules are slightly more strict: the US department of Agriculture says these are generally OK to bring in, "as long as the cheese does not contain meat or pour like a liquid ie ricotta or cottage cheese."

That indicates that cheeses such as brie or goat's cheese are fine to take with you, regulation-wise (although you do need to keep these as cool as possible, and of course brie will stink out your luggage).


American authorities also have a problem with blue cheese - anything with a certain bacteria level is banned, which includes many blue cheeses including France's famous roquefort

Finally, there's mimolette, which the US declares is a health hazard - this hard orange cheese has a crust that is created by burrowing weevils (it's actually nicer than it sounds).

The above rules cover cheese that is for person consumption (or to give as a gift) - when it comes to importing cheese into the US for resale, if the product is made from raw or unpasteurised milk (as many French cheeses are), only hard cheese is allowed.

The US Customs Clearance website states: "Soft or liquid cheese made from raw cow’s milk or other milk-producing animal is banned from importing into the US by the FDA."


So what if you want to pick up some Bayonne ham, saucisson sec or other types of cured meats?

Unfortunately, these are banned under current US rules. The Department of Agriculture clearly states: "Cured hams (prosciutto, Serrano ham, Iberian ham) and salami from areas within France, Germany, Italy and Spain may not be brought into the United States by travellers."

"These items may only enter in commercial shipments because there are special restrictions that require additional certification and documentation."



If you've fallen in love with a particular French vintage during a vineyard trip you may want to bring a couple of bottle back with you.

This is allowed, but the allowances for all types of alcohol are very low. 

The exact amount of alcohol you can import into the US varies by state, so you will need to check the rules on the state you are flying into (and it's where the airport is that counts, not your final destination).

The US Consulate says that the average amount allowed is just one litre (so that's one standard size bottle of wine, plus a half bottle) for duty-free allowances, and after that duty has to be paid, with amounts varying by state.

You also need to remember that the drinking age in most US states is older than in Europe, so you cannot bring in any type of alcohol if you are under 21.

As with the cheese, wine can only be imported for personal consumption or as a gift. 

Please note that The Local is unable to advise on individual cases. If you're unsure whether an item is allowed, email the National Center for Import and Export at [email protected] or call on (+1) 301-851-3300 or (+1) 877-770-5990 in advance of your journey for confirmation.


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