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Help! Customs and Declaring "Food" Information Needed!

Help! Customs and Declaring "Food" Information Needed!

Old May 27th, 2007, 02:03 AM
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Help! Customs and Declaring "Food" Information Needed!

Hi! I am going to be moving to Australia in 8 days (yay!) to spend some time living near my fiance's family. Now, I'm not exactly a culinary master, but there are several dishes that I make where I use specific ingredients that I KNOW are not available in Australia (I couldn't get ANYTHING to taste right when I was living in London, either, as spices and stuff are just...different).

I'm talking a certain brand of curry powder, some good ol' Texas bar-be-que sauce, and two jars of this seasoning that's like the consistency of tomato paste. Obviously everything would still have the factory seal on it (though even brand new, the curry powder doesn't really have a "seal" per se).

Is this okay? Do I have to declare it? Does having items to declare mean I'll spend hours more in line if I didn't have anything to declare (this is only my 2nd international journey, and the whole declaring/just leaving thing at LHR was a bit of a joke - people just wandered out after getting their bags and no one checked anything after you'd picked them up...is that normal?)?

I saw on another post someone saying the dogs would hunt out even a bag that smelled of food that had already been consumed, which I think would be a bit embarrassing to have to endure! Basically, is this even allowed, or are foreign spices/sauces strictly not allowed into the country?

Okay, final question (I'm so sorry!) - what about tea bags? My favorite herbal tea is only made in the US, and I didn't know if I could bring a box with me or not...

Thank you all SO MUCH, in advance, for your help and replies!
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Old May 27th, 2007, 03:45 AM
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Hello,

I've had the same sort of worries. I sort of sussed out a while back that processed/manufactured foodstuffs in jars or tins aren't what they are after. You might have a problem with vacuum packs of dried apricots or dates, or salami, etc.

The aim of the exercise is to keep Australia free of foot and mouth, or any of the myriad bugs and diseases that can affect agriculture.

Having said all that - I always declare my jar of Marmite, or bottle of Mexican chilli seasoning, etc. I always feel a bit of a fool. You join a queue that doesn't take long to clear, and usually there is someone going down the line checking your declaration and filtering out the honest but over anxious!!

But it is true about the dogs. Don't pitch up with an apple in your bag that you forgot was there else you will be met by a lovely friendly doggy with a customs officer in tow.

Have a great ttip.
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Old May 27th, 2007, 03:50 AM
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You will probably be OK with the sort of stuff you mention. Mostly they are looking for stuff which may contain live organisms, such as fresh fruit & veg, Meat, both processed & raw, and animal products.

Pack all the stuff in an easy to access place, even in your carry on luggage, and DECLARE IT. They will have a look, and probably wave you through, but you should be prepared to have some confiscated. The agriculture line is usually shorter than the 'Nothing to Declare" line, and you could well get through faster.

Whatever you do, don't try to hide anything, and if they say you can't take something through, smile and accept it, don't argue. The guy with the badge is God.
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Old May 27th, 2007, 04:10 AM
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Hi MarcsRed

If you go to http://www.daffa.gov.au/aqis this is the website for the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.

There's a wealth of information, and you can also contact them direct with your questions.

We've had several TV programmes here in recent times that show the inspection service in operation at airports.

They are (rightly) extremely vigilant with questions and inspections, and people arriving with prohibited products receive anything from a severe warning, to fines, to criminal charges for blatant disregard of regulations.

It's not worth the worry to try to avoid detection - either get answers from them before you travel, or be sure to declare absolutely everything on your declaration form you fill out in flight.

Happy travels, Di
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Old May 27th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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Thanks for the responses. I'll try emailing that site to see if I can actually get a response!

No fresh fruit or vege would make it in my checked baggage, haha, and I'm vegetarian, so no meat products either. Obviously the stuff I'm bringing in isn't liquid gold (however, if you tried my curry I bet you'd be hard pressed to agree with that, haha), so getting it confiscated isn't the end of the world, I'd rather just know in advance whether to take it or leave it.

Do you actually get through with the Mexican chili sauce, Chimani? I'm just wondering if that sort of thing would get the nod so long as I declared it and all of that.

Last, but not least - I should have remembered to ask offhand - my future little brother-in-law wanted me to bring just a regular bottle each, of three kinds of beer from the States (that my fiance and I love, but he's never gotten to try - don't worry, he's of age!). Is that sort of thing a no-go?

Thanks for all your help!
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Old May 27th, 2007, 03:33 PM
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Declare everything is always good advice - and it is often quicker getting through.
Beer is fine!
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Old May 27th, 2007, 04:04 PM
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MarcsRed, the beer isn't a problem in itself, but it will count towards your duty-free liquor allowance. The allowance is a small nice-to-have, as beer and spirits are significantly more expensive in Australia than in the US (wine is roughly in the same ballpark though). You won't be able to take it onto the plane unless you pack it carefully in your checked baggage. Given the way baggage is handled when the passenger isn't watching that means several layers of bubble wrap inside big clip-lock plastic bags and further padded by clothes.

The alternative I guess would be to buy it in the duty-free shop on departure, but a sixpack (and I recall you can't buy any less in the US) would wipe out your 2-litre duty-free allowance.

A small point: if you can take good American local "artisan" beers, which aren't seen here, you'll help in a small way to dispel the firm Australian belief (based on exposure to Bud, Miller etc.) that all American beers are rubbish. Failing that, the Samuel Adams brews (Boston Lager etc.) would be a good choice.

You should have no problem with bottled sauces - I've brought back Mexican chile sauce myself with no problems, also chile flakes in the original sealed plastic bag. Again, though, it would have to go in your checked baggage.

If the BBQ sauce proves a problem I'm happy to make the supreme sacrifice and supply my recipe for Texas BBQ sauce, originally taken from a Time-Life cookbook and somewhat amended. All the ingredients are readily available in Australia.

I'm a bit puzzled about the curry powder. Is it an American formulation? Asian food stores, which are prolific in all major Australian cities, carry a vast range of imported curry powders and pastes from all over the Asia. For my money you can't go past some of the pastes, e.g. Bolst's. And of course you can always make your own if you're a keen home cook. But I can't see a problem in bringing your favourite stuff with you.

Having said that there are certainly uniquely American mixes etc. that you won't be able to get here. I can't imagine however why individual spices would be a problem, except maybe for things like New Mexico dried chiles and file powder. You can also buy a large range of fresh, Australian-grown Asian herbs and spices such as fresh turmeric, galangal, kaffir lime leaves etc. in Asian groceries and many supermarkets.
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Old May 27th, 2007, 07:10 PM
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Just declare ALL edible items. Food which they will most definitely throw out would be stuff which has eggs and meat, all fresh fruit and seeds. Depending on your flight arrival, it can be a quick or long wait for quarantine. Sometimes the nothing to declare lane can also be busy if Customs decide to x-ray everyone's luggage. Tea is fine btw.
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Old May 27th, 2007, 08:38 PM
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Well, my family has been using Lalah's Madras Curry Powder for three generations, haha, and I just can't find anything as good. For someplace that brags about their curries, I have never, EVER had worse curry at EVERY place I went (high and low end) than in London!

I've not been cooking extensively long enough (I'm only 21, and my mum is an AMAZING cook) to go THAT far outside of what I KNOW will be good (especially not if I'm cooking for my fiance's whole family one night, haha). I guess that's why I'm particular about my spices/pastes.

I hadn't even considered that the beer would go towards my 2 litre allowance. I guess I'll have to tell my fiance his mum (who wants some good duty-free vodka) and little brother (who wants the beers) will have to duke it out before I go!

I'm actually a big fan of Budweiser Select (no light beer has ever passed my lips, haha) and Rolling Rock (which are what he wants me to bring). I'm not that thrilled with Sam Adams, though. Perhaps being raised a New Yorker has instilled a hatred for all things Boston related, haha!

Thanks for the info about the tea as well!
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Old May 28th, 2007, 02:15 AM
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Could you tell us the actual ingredients of Lalah's Madras Curry Powder? Am sure you could find an alternative in the many Asian stores in Australia. There's branded curry mixes and marsalas and many more than enough unbranded spices. Or better still, buy the whole spices, roast them a bit and grind them - easy in a small coffee grinder.

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Old May 28th, 2007, 02:29 AM
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In case you haven't got the message by now, declare any food that you may have. The Australian and New Zealand customs people are not unreasonable about what you can bring with you but, if it is at all suspect, they will err on the side of the biosecurity of their countries, not your recipe.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 06:11 AM
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MarcsRed,

I won't comment on the curry powder as I see someone already has.

But you cannot be serious about saying you found no good "curry" in London.

Where did you go for the cheap and cheeful?

Did you make it out to Tooting where there are some wonderful veggie eateries - or around Kings X?

If you did, and were disappointed, please tell!!

Or is your idea of "currÿ" different from mine?
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Old May 28th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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Chimani, I lived in the East End of London for the better part of a year, and found nothing comparable to any curry I've eaten before (I'm 1/2 Guyanese, but that side of my family is of relatively recent Indian descent). I tried the places just on my block - nothing. They all went for sheer heat (in terms of spicing) over flavour. I was taken to hoity toity Indian restaurants that I "had to try", and they were bland. Then, since I lived just in Mile End/Whitechapel, my little sister and I made it a point to try every Indian shop/stand/restaurant in the Brick Lane area, which is supposed to be THE place to get a good curry. Nothing.

I don't know what the deal is. I've been vegetarian for my whole life, so I was practically salivating at the idea of being able to get a good curry whenever I wanted, and was disappointed that all I got were "dodgy rubies." Believe me - my search for a decent curry was EXTENSIVE, and had to be, seeing as most of the other places to eat were all called Perfect Fried Chicken, or the sandwich options were, get this: white bread (which I haven't eaten since I was 6) with a "vegetable oil" spread (not even butter!), then a mix of cheese, corn, and mayo!!!!! Ick!.

I will say, though, that while the vegetarian selection was MUCH more limited than America, London had two things that I liked: the "Suitable for Vegetarians" seal on foods that were, and a whole different kind of vegetarian food selection. I have to say, after eating veggie burgers that try to imitate meat as closely as possible, there is NO veggie burger that I like better than the ones you get at those Perfect Fried Chicken-type places (though I had to stop eating at the one round the corner after I got hair in my food twice). They're breaded and fried (I'd assume), but they're filled with a great mash of veggies. You can buy the patties at Sainsbury's, which is what I ended up doing, but you can't get them here in the States - perhaps you can in Oz. What I wouldn't give for one of those, or better yet, a Wetherspoons Sunday roast - butternut squash roast instead of meat, with potatoes, broccoli, carrots, mash with VEGETARIAN gravy (you NEVER get that in the States), Yorkshire puddings and a pint of Stella - at Barking Dog. Mmmmm!

Thank you guys for the offers to help me find something based on the ingredients - I will definitely have to take a look at that and post them up here. That would be wonderful!

Kiwi_Rob, I am more than aware of the fact that they will err on the side of biosecurity of their country, and not my recipe, which is why I'm ASKING about stuff now. I don't think there's any point in wasting my luggage allowance and both of our time by bringing stuff that simply won't be let in.
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Old May 30th, 2007, 06:49 AM
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Declare, declare, declare.

Years ago Customs and Quarantine were less strict than they are now, plus if you don't declare they put your bags through the"food" xray machine and heaven help you if they spot any food. You might get through but they will give you a very hard time. Much easier to declare. As other posters have said, they may confiscate but at least you won't get on the spot fines. I know they don't like products that may contain diary or egg products like salad dressings. I've brought in jams, chocolate, maple syrup; chocolate; tea (regular and herbal) and coffee without problem. I don't think you will have any problems.

Mac123
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Old May 30th, 2007, 07:58 AM
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Marcs I am an Aust'n who lives OS and always have some sort of food or other item which is on the Aust customs declare list. I just declare everything they ask about and have it packed where I can easily get at it in my bag. I have never had any issues and they will be much harder on you if you don not declare and they happen to stop you for a random check. Don't worry just be totally honest and have a fantastic trip.
J
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Old May 30th, 2007, 06:42 PM
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Thanks so much guys (and gals)! I emailed that site di2315 provided, and they actually answered and gave me the nod on everything. I emailed them product names and links to websites - which they actually LOOKED AT!!! - and after they read the ingredients, they said everything was okay, with the exception of a couple things that didn't have ingredients posted. But they said all I had to make sure was that those things - the curry powder and some other powdered spices and the BBQ sauce - didn't have any cloves, which they don't, so I guess it's all good!

The only thing they couldn't clarify was whether or not the beers would count towards my 2 litres or not...any ideas?

Cheers!
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Old May 30th, 2007, 08:15 PM
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They wouldn't have been able to answer the question because they'd have been the Australoian Quarantine INspection Service; you want the Australian Customs Service, a different agency.

I Googled "duty free allowances australia" and hey, presto:

"Group 2 - alcohol: 2.25 litres of alcoholic beverages for each passenger aged 18 years or over."

Beer by definition is an alcoholic beverage. Even Bud.

www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=4352
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Old May 30th, 2007, 11:06 PM
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It's great to hear that you had such a satisfactory outcome, MarcsRed!
Hope you enjoy your new Aussie experiences, Di
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Old May 30th, 2007, 11:24 PM
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That's great that you seem to be able to bring in all the things you wanted to but still remember to go through the motions and declare everything. It seems it will be ok but if they find it and you haven't decared it , you will be hit with a stiff fine.
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Old May 31st, 2007, 10:42 PM
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Yes, "Declare, declare, declare!" It's almost my mantra now, haha! Just three days!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm excited and scared. I always get nervous before I leave on a big trip - I miss my doggies!
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