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alohatoall Feb 7th, 2006 06:33 PM

Bringing back foie gras & cassoulet
I found this on the web site of APHIS, but the link to the "Matrix" with more specific info isn't working. Does anyone know the lastest regs?
"As a general rule - if goods are cooked and in shelf-stable (does not require refrigeration) packaging such as cans or other hermetically sealed containers AND they are not from a country affected with various diseases such as Avian influenza, Mad Cow disease, swine fever, etc., they may be

Pate - If cooked and in a hermetically sealed container, maybe - see Matrix. Otherwise - no.

Fois Gras - If cooked and in a hermetically sealed container, maybe- see Matrix. Otherwise, no."

ekscrunchy Feb 7th, 2006 07:04 PM

Into which country do you want to bring these things? I always bring cans and jars, including pate and bloc fois gras, into the US with no problem.

alohatoall Feb 7th, 2006 07:08 PM

To the U.S. And I would really like to know the law, since I've heard recently of folks spending quite a bit of $$$ only to have their stuff confiscated, specifically glass jars rather than cans of foie gras. Supposedly there's a big variation among the customs/USDA staff who decide these things.

ekscrunchy Feb 7th, 2006 07:29 PM

Boy is that APHIS web site confusing! Who could ever deduce the rules from that?? Terrible!

alohatoall Feb 7th, 2006 07:36 PM

You got it - that's why I started this thread, hoping that someone would be able to provide some answers.

Gretchen Feb 7th, 2006 07:42 PM

You can bring preserved/tinned foie gras back. You can bring any cheeses. Yo cannot bring in meats/sausages.

Michael Feb 7th, 2006 07:56 PM

Either the rules have changed or there is a difference between paté and pure foie gras because paté always contains pork fat. Pork fat was not allowed two years ago, I had stuffed goose neck confiscated because of it. Glass jars are usually not acceptable because they lack certifying stamps from the E.U.

Dave_in_Paris Feb 7th, 2006 10:39 PM

It's been a long time since we returned to the U,S. with foie gras, but when we did, we purchased at Fauchon in Paris and told them we needed processing-packaging that conformed to U.S. customs requirements. They know which did and provided it. No problem. However, I imagine there's always some risk that the customs officer may not understand the regulations, since they're complicated.

ekscrunchy Feb 7th, 2006 10:44 PM

At what airports have these goods been confiscated, do you know? Are there some US airports that are more likely to subject a passenger to a search than others? Just curious.

ekscrunchy Feb 7th, 2006 10:45 PM

Gretchen is that true that any cheese is ok to bring back? I always thought it had to be aged cheese but who can figure out these rules anyway?

ira Feb 8th, 2006 06:02 AM

Hi alo,

The rules and regs are at


ekscrunchy Feb 8th, 2006 06:10 AM

Ira, that site is pretty useless; where does it have info there on different preparations of fois gras?

Gretchen Feb 8th, 2006 06:23 AM

You can bring back any cheese you want for your personal use. Cheese has to be aged in the US, if made from raw milk. I have never tried to bring back the processed foie gras in glass jars but have been told by someone who spends many months in France that that is OK too. You can bring back any meat that is tinned--pork, goose, duck, foie gras. A couple of years ago there was a temporary ban but it has been lifted.

ekscrunchy Feb 8th, 2006 07:07 AM

I am so happy to learn that, Gretchen. I have always brought these things home with me and just hoped I would not be searched so it is nice to know I won't have to feel so sneaky next time! There is so much misinformation on these issues being passed around (including on Fodor's) and I can understand why after I took a look at those customs and USDA web sites. From what you say, these things do not even have to be vacuum packed, right? (As in proscuitto, for example). I always take zip lock bags and foil with me to wrap my purchases before bringing them home.

SuzieC Feb 8th, 2006 07:32 AM

It IS my understanding that they must be vacuum packed... and some cheeses are NOT allowed in - epoisse for example.
So? You do it, get tagged (fined heavily), pay the fines, lose the meat, cheese, whatever.
Just buy the tinned meats. Eat cheese while there.
Cassoulet? Canned?

Gretchen Feb 8th, 2006 10:06 AM

You can't bring in prosciutto--it is like sausage.. Why couldn't you bring in epoisse? I always claim ALL my foods and have never had any confiscated even at the height of the hoof and mouth epidemic. Cheese does not have to be vacuum packed, but if it is a smelly one, you might enjoy it more. You only get fined IF you didn't declare it and it is not allowed. The fines are very hefty now and not worth the risk.

flsd Feb 8th, 2006 10:15 AM

I had a sausage - hermetically sealed in plastic and processed within an inch of its life, so I have no doubt it was safe - purchased in Germany confiscated at the Philadelphia airport. I'm sure the customs fellows ate well that day!

On another trip, I purchased tinned fois gras in Paris and simply failed to mention it to customs upon my return. They didn't find it, so I have no idea whether it was legal or not.

alohatoall Feb 8th, 2006 10:17 AM

It's no wonder there is so much confusion - which is why I'm trying to find the answer. Here's what Customs says: "Meats, Livestock, and Poultry: The regulations governing meat and meat products are very strict. You may not import fresh, dried, or canned meats or meat products from most foreign countries into the United States. Also, you may not import food products that have been prepared with meat." So there is a basis for foie gras and cassoulet being confiscated, it seems. I found an article about this subject in the L.A. Times, and the author concluded that "it’s mostly a matter of luck and timing — of the knowledge, judgment and even the mood of individual inspectors." The author also said that the USDA publishes — and posts online — an Animal Products Manual and a set of agricultural products guidelines listing foodstuffs that are prohibited, permitted or restricted at any given time. Maybe that's the "Matrix" I can't find.

alohatoall Feb 8th, 2006 10:22 AM

One more warning on this subject. Coming back through Chicago in late October, we passed through Immigration and then Customs as usual. THEN the USDA had large screening devices set up, through which ALL luggage had to pass. So don't try to hide those small cans of foie gras or whatever - as Gretchen says, the fines are hefty, and your stuff in confiscated to boot.

Steveboy Feb 8th, 2006 11:02 AM

Sadly, there really is no absolute answer to your question. Because the regulations - as you can see - are so confusing and always in flux - the custom agents themselves often don't know the law. So, regardless of what the law may actually say, you are at the mercy of what your particular agent thinks is the law at the moment you pass through. Believe me I know, because I've been through this a number of times the past few years. I've had tinned foie gras passed through and I've had it confiscated. Same with cheese. Your best hope is to declare, tell them that everything you've heard and read says it's legal, and hope for the best.

ekscrunchy Feb 8th, 2006 11:12 AM

That link says "MOST countries." So there are some whose products would seem to be allowed. But it seems this info is hiding someplace!!! One thing I have always been puzzled about is this: Stores in the US are allowed to sell meat products such as proscuitto and mortadella, as well as many Italian (pasturized) cheeses. So one would think that this means that these things are ok to bring into the US, no? Spanish jamon Iberico, on the other hand, is not sold here in the US (yet); a friend of mine was caught with a whole ham in her bag last year!! The customs guys told her that they catch a few a day in NY. No fine last year, just confiscation which really hurt after all that schlepping! Does anyone know what the fines are in dollar amounts, more or less? Are we talking $20? Or thousands. How would they determine this? thank goodness for all the knowledgeable posters here as this info is not easy to find on those official sites.

StCirq Feb 8th, 2006 11:16 AM

I think it's the luck of the draw and the Ag rep you happen to get on any particular day. I always declare all my food, and I always bring back foie gras and sometimes cheese. Only time I've had the foie gras confiscated was when it was in a tin without an official label (it was from my neighbor and had a big old truffle in it - waaaaaahh!). Never had a problem with cheese...

richardab Feb 8th, 2006 11:16 AM

I would avoid bring in any meat products at all. Just because its tinned doesn't mean its legal. As recommended above, don't try to hide it because in most cases you luggage is Xrayed at point of entry to fing these lovely foie gras, sausages and pates! I had a friend who took some sausage from Italy on the jet home to eat. They didn't finish it and stuffed it into one of their bags. They didn't remember it when they hot customs and once the agents located it, they were heavily fined and their leftovers were taken away.

Hide an extra bottle of perfume or wine, they don't care about that. Don't hide the meat or fruit.

Gretchen Feb 8th, 2006 11:18 AM

Your sausage is JUST NOT allowed. Doesn't matter if it was processed within an inch of its life--not allowed. Tinned meats CAN be brought back. What can I say except they don't EVEN look at the tins of foie gras and confit I bring back. I am speaking of France in all this.
When the poster speaks of two years ago having things confiscated, that was when the US and France got into a snit with each other and foie gras, etc. WAS prohibited. That ban has been lifted.

alohatoall Feb 8th, 2006 11:38 AM

First, Gretchen, I'm not talking about the snit of 2 years ago - I know that's changed, but my friend's foie gras was just recently confiscated, on the basis that it was a prohibited meat product. Okay, I have found the Manual: France's status is in Appendix C. Now we just have to figure out the details.

ekscrunchy Feb 8th, 2006 12:03 PM

Again, does anyone know what the fines are, more or less? They may screen the bags, but how can they tell on the screen if the cans are filled with tuna or with cassoulet? Are there airports where they will search you if they see a can in your suitcase?? I had no idea!

richardab Feb 8th, 2006 12:07 PM

The fines are $100 - $500. It doesnt matter whats in the tin, if they see it on the Xray, you will have to show it. These guys are serious and know their stuff.

alohatoall Feb 8th, 2006 12:25 PM

Based on the Manual and its Matrix in Appendix A, cooked (defined on A-1-3) poultry products from France are admissible with adequate proof of origin, which includes labeling. It seems that all other meat products from France are prohibited. Other opinions???

Gretchen Feb 8th, 2006 12:32 PM

The point is about fines, you are not fined if you have declared the item. It is only fined for "smuggling". I'm done. I have brought it back repeatedly with no confiscation. It is TINNED.

Christina Feb 8th, 2006 01:43 PM

This isn't an opinion, because I have brought foie gras from France to US with absolutely no problem whatsoever. It is not prohibited. I declare it, I don't try to smuggle things in. This was in a tin. This was just last summer.

Why are all you people trying to not declare things and sneak them in and worrying about Xrays? Even if you aren't caught, is this really so important to you that you will risk getting in trouble with the customs/Agriculture people at the airport?

Michael Feb 8th, 2006 02:03 PM


I am the one who had goose neck (tinned) confiscated two years ago, but the foie gras passed on the same day. Maybe the rules have changed, but it used to be that anything with pork products was not allowed.


They pass your luggage through a machine, and if they see something like a can, they dig it out of the luggage to see what it is.

alohatoall Feb 8th, 2006 02:43 PM

The point of starting this thread was to be able to point a Customs or USDA/APHIS inspector to the correct regulation/rule IF he tries to confiscate my foie gras, since it has recently happened to a friend. I for one am certainly going to declare everything I bring back - I think you're crazy not to. And Michael, the Matrix I linked above still prohibits the importation of pork products from France. I wish someone would take a look at it and see if they read it the same way I do.

Underhill Feb 8th, 2006 03:50 PM

On the re-entry form you get on the plane you must enter any agricultural and animal products in your possession. Anything that contains mean will be confiscated; foie gras is usually okay, as it comes from poultry.

Pâté does not always contain pork fat; some is made with chicken liver, some with pheasant, some with boar (no longer allowed).

Since cassoulet usually contains sausage, you probably won't be allowed to bring it in.

richardab Feb 8th, 2006 04:50 PM

So why take the chance? It's not easy to argue with a customs officer.

Gretchen Feb 8th, 2006 07:03 PM

OK. IF it is in your luggage and you have declared it, they MAY look at it. They have ONLY looked at my tinned foie gras during the hoof and mouth time. DECLARE it, for heavens' sake. The OP "may" have an additional issue since he is in Hawaii, I'd guess. I have brought back tinned confit. And pate.

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