The USDA no longer offers a booklet on what you can bring into the United States. But fear not, there are other resources.

— James Albright




The USDA replaced the booklet with a website,, with guidance on what can and cannot be imported. You don't often get asked by your passengers what is okay and what isn't, but you as the pilot are still the one in jeopardy. You should have an idea of what is okay and where to look if you aren't sure.

Note that I've updated this on 25 December 2020 but much of the data from the source websites is several years old. You should click on the websites given for possible updates. The USDA website does not easily link and they often change those links in an effort to make things harder than they should. I will try to point you in the right direction but they seem to change things every six months or so.

1 — Generally allowed food items

2 — Fruits and vegetables

3 — Animal products and by-products

4 — Violations



Generally allowed food items

The following food items are generally allowed entry:

  • Condiments such as oil, vinegar, mustard, catsup, pickles, syrup, honey without honey combs, jelly, and jam.
  • Foodstuffs such as bakery items, candy, and chocolate.
  • Hard cured cheeses without meat, such as Parmesan or cheddar.
  • Canned goods and goods in vacuum-packed jars (except those containing meat or poultry products) for personal use.
  • Fish or fish products for personal use.
  • Powdered drinks sealed in original containers with ingredients listed in English.
  • Dry mixes containing dairy and egg ingredients (such as baking mixes, cocoa mixes, drink mixes, instant cake mixes, instant pudding mixes, liquid drink mixes containing reconstituted dry milk or dry milk products, potato flakes, and infant formula) that are commercially labeled, presented in final finished packaging, and require no further manipulation of the product are generally allowed.

Remember, you must declare all food and agricultural products, including those listed above, to a CBP agriculture specialist or officer when you arrive in the United States.

Source:, — In the section marked "Popular Topics," select "Imports & Exports."


Fruits and vegetables

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains a website where you plug in the country or the food item and get a ruling on import. The web site is:

If you enter "Papaya," for example, you will find out you can never bring one to Hawaii. You are also restricted from bringing any papaya from Chile, Ecuador, or Malaysia to any port of the United States.

The web site works well but the list is rather large. If you are en route and don't have an Internet connection, the USDA publishes phone numbers for inquiries: 1-301-851-2046 or 1-877-770-5990.


Animal products and by-products

  • Meat, milk, egg, poultry, and products such as dried soup mix or bouillon, are either prohibited or restricted from entering the United States, depending on the types of animal diseases that occur in the country of origin. Fresh (chilled or frozen), dried, cured, and fully cooked meat is generally prohibited from most countries. Canned meat is allowed entry, except beef, veal, lamb, mutton, venison, elk, bison, etc., from countries affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
  • Products containing raw egg ingredients are not allowed from most regions.
  • Pork and pork products are not allowed from Mexico, except for cooked pork in small amounts for a meal.
  • Effective January 14, 2010, cooked pork skins (also known as pork rinds) entering as commercial cargo or in passenger baggage from some countries must be accompanied by additional documents. For more details, contact USDA's National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-3277, or email

Source:, — Click "Resources" / "Travelers International" and then "Animal Products and By Products"



Individuals who fail to declare non-commercial agricultural items may be subject to penalties ranging from $1,100 to $60,000 per violation. These penalties are based on authorities granted to USDA through the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act.

Source: USDA - APHIS

If you discover a banned item on the aircraft it is best to declare it on inspection. I've done that and had the item confiscated, which was better than the times the item was discovered and the passenger was forced to write a check.