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Old May 24, 11, 4:47 am   #1
 
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Traveling to US: Brought food, did not declare and got caught. What happens?

As in the scenario above, say you are an international traveler visiting to the US. You brought a few food items and did not declare it, but you were caught (maybe in some random inspection). What happens then? What's the worst that can happen? Can the authorities deport you? Or will they just confiscate the food items?

Can anyone also share how troublesome it will be if you do the "right thing" and declare your food items? How much hassle and time will it cause? Do they just check your food items or go through everything that you have?
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Old May 24, 11, 6:03 am   #2
 
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Minimum the food would be confiscated if it is on the banned list. You could also be fined, possibly arrested/jailed/deported if you were trying to smuggle goods (which it kind of sounds like you are) vs. just forgetting or being ignorant of the rules.

If you declare it and it is not restricted (some meats, agriculture, etc.), you will be on your way with a bag inspection at the worst.

Lying to customs in any country is a very stupid thing to do. There is also a very good chance that a friendly beagle will find your food long before you even talk to customs.
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Old May 24, 11, 6:09 am   #3
 
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In Australia there is an AUD 220 fine even if the food is allowed. And they will catch you since all bags are screened.
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Old May 24, 11, 6:20 am   #4
 
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Originally Posted by tev9999 View Post
Minimum the food would be confiscated if it is on the banned list. You could also be fined, possibly arrested/jailed/deported if you were trying to smuggle goods (which it kind of sounds like you are) vs. just forgetting or being ignorant of the rules.

If you declare it and it is not restricted (some meats, agriculture, etc.), you will be on your way with a bag inspection at the worst.

Lying to customs in any country is a very stupid thing to do. There is also a very good chance that a friendly beagle will find your food long before you even talk to customs.
Man... you sure sound like a paranoid CBP/TSA staff. I am just trying to figure out if it is worth the hassle of declaration and secondary screening. Besides, I am not bringing in fresh agriculture products or meat products... No offence, but I am sure most people would not declare simple food stuff (e.g. candy, processed food, etc.) they bring in, that's like incriminating yourself intentionally.
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Old May 24, 11, 6:26 am   #5
 
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I believe the fine for not declaring any food is $300, even if it was some cookies or crackers you packed at home to snack on and did not use them up before you returned home.

So just to play safe, say yes on the form, you may be asked a few questions about the food, and may or may not have to surrender the food items.

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Old May 24, 11, 6:28 am   #6
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Originally Posted by Rommie2k6 View Post
Man... you sure sound like a paranoid CBP/TSA staff. I am just trying to figure out if it is worth the hassle of declaration and secondary screening. Besides, I am not bringing in fresh agriculture products or meat products... No offence, but I am sure most people would not declare simple food stuff (e.g. candy, processed food, etc.) they bring in, that's like incriminating yourself intentionally.
I declare food quite often and the worst that comes from my declarations of such is that I get sent for a quick ag inspection a bit more often than I would if not declaring foodstuff. [Often before deciding if to send me for an ag inspection, they will ask what food items I have; and then I may not even be sent to an ag inspection.]

While I have my criticisms of "security" operations at airports, the ag inspections to which I've been subjected aren't something that has ever annoyed me. And I've declared foodstuff on personal trips hundreds of times within the past several years.
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Last edited by GUWonder; May 24, 11 at 7:20 am.
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Old May 24, 11, 6:32 am   #7
 
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Originally Posted by Rommie2k6 View Post
Man... you sure sound like a paranoid CBP/TSA staff. I am just trying to figure out if it is worth the hassle of declaration and secondary screening. Besides, I am not bringing in fresh agriculture products or meat products... No offence, but I am sure most people would not declare simple food stuff (e.g. candy, processed food, etc.) they bring in, that's like incriminating yourself intentionally.
I have been asked at US immigration if I had food items and in post-flight stupor said yes though I hadn't marked it. But just a few snacks. They marked something and I was asked at customs. They accepted my description and did not inspect them. Similar experience in Australia where it's a much bigger deal I just asked if the items were ok. In th US if it's a small amount I think they just confiscate if it's unalloyed, like kinder eggs.
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Old May 24, 11, 6:50 am   #8
 
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You know, I never check that box. I just always assumed it meant like real food. My wife who is orginally from Thailand comes back with sauces and canned items all the time. Maybe I should start checking it. Honestly, the ag inspection at ORD which they send us to sometimes after seeing where we are coming from (1 in 10 trips) isnt that bad. You put your bags on a belt and it goes through the machine and off you go. Not a big deal really. IAD looks like it is not as well organized but have never experienced it.
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Old May 24, 11, 7:04 am   #9
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Originally Posted by Rommie2k6 View Post
Man... you sure sound like a paranoid CBP/TSA staff. I am just trying to figure out if it is worth the hassle of declaration and secondary screening. Besides, I am not bringing in fresh agriculture products or meat products... No offence, but I am sure most people would not declare simple food stuff (e.g. candy, processed food, etc.) they bring in, that's like incriminating yourself intentionally.
Is it worth the hassle of not declaring the items and then getting a secondary?
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Old May 24, 11, 7:16 am   #10
 
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Is it worth the hassle of not declaring the items and then getting a secondary?
Personally, out of all the bizarre and sometimes embarassing things our customs and immigration people pull from time to time, one aspect of entry into the U.S of which I have absolutely no objection is the agricultural inspections because it is useful and relevant. It's not a coincidence that this inspection is performed by the Department of Agriculture and not the Department of Homeland Security.

Generally, pre-packaged foods are Ok to be imported. Fresh fruits, veggies, and meats (which have probably already spoiled unless they wee packed in dry ice) are definitely prohibited. Like others have said, declare anything remotely connected with food and don't even attempt to bring in the obvious no-brainers. It just isn't worth the hassle. Introduction of pests and other non-native organisms via fresh foods is a BIG deal in most countries, including the U.S..
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Old May 24, 11, 7:18 am   #11
 
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My rule of thumb and one used by many CBP agents is if it can be put in mouth and consumed then it is food. Second rule is full disclosure declaration.

If you are caught not only will you suffer whatever "punishment" you are getting you will also be red-flagged for additional screening in future visits. It has happened to close friends and family members.

Yes the beagle brigade is active at all entry points when a bag is suspected it will be marked and monitored for screening at customs.

AG inspection is no more than just put your bag into a machine. Some has been sent to further inspection but it has never happened to me.

There are two charges: Failure the declare or importing banned goods/substances.
You will be fined and goods confiscated. You can be denied entry if you refuse to pay the fine. Afterward, give yourself plenty of time at all US entry checkpoints. Certain substances will get you jail time.

After you are caught you are going to be kicking yourself as to why did I risk the secondary.

Last edited by tentseller; May 24, 11 at 7:27 am.
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Old May 24, 11, 7:27 am   #12
 
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Just declare it -- take a look at what's permitted and you'll get an idea. I always declare food, even if it's just a chocolate bar, and rarely do I get more than a question or two. Once during the bird flu scare I had a can (shelf-stable) of foie gras confiscated, which was disappointing, but as the agent pointed out, better than the stiff fine levied had I not declared it.

A friend who habitually smuggled in frozen game finally got caught, and in addition to the fine was warned that the info would be recorded. On subsequent trips into the U.S. the CPB agent would ask, "any moose meat?"
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Old May 24, 11, 7:39 am   #13
 
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Originally Posted by tev9999 View Post
Minimum the food would be confiscated if it is on the banned list. You could also be fined, possibly arrested/jailed/deported if you were trying to smuggle goods (which it kind of sounds like you are) vs. just forgetting or being ignorant of the rules.

If you declare it and it is not restricted (some meats, agriculture, etc.), you will be on your way with a bag inspection at the worst.

Lying to customs in any country is a very stupid thing to do. There is also a very good chance that a friendly beagle will find your food long before you even talk to customs.
Yes, don't fear the CBP, but you will never get past the Beagles if they're in use. I was coming through Detroit once and they had a couple of Beagle at the bag pickup area outside customs. One of the Beagles started howling at a bag that was over 10 feet away. When he finally was allowed loose he started pouncing all over this woman's pull-along. The CBP agent asked her to open it up, it was full of cookies and pastries. I think she had some explaining to do.

This is still a perfect example of the stupidity of the TSA and their pat downs/NOS. I doubt anyone would object to a dog walking past them, and I would put good money on it that the dog is a 1000% more reliable then even the most advanced scanner and the brightest, highly qualified TSO. Still, as others have said, trained dogs cost only a few thousand dollars and will not enrich the bank accounts of certain former government officials, so I guess they're not a viable solution.
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Old May 24, 11, 7:42 am   #14
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Originally Posted by William S View Post
In Australia there is an AUD 220 fine even if the food is allowed. And they will catch you since all bags are screened.
Australia is insane about it. I flew on UA to MEL, stopping in SYD to change planes, but not through customs. I bought a candy bar in SYD, got on the short flight to MEL, and in MEL went through customs. They got all pissy about the candy being "brought into the country", until I showed them the receipt that I bought it in SYD. Even then they tried lecturing about their "rules".
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Old May 24, 11, 7:57 am   #15
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Originally Posted by VelvetJones View Post
Yes, don't fear the CBP, but you will never get past the Beagles if they're in use. I was coming through Detroit once and they had a couple of Beagle at the bag pickup area outside customs. One of the Beagles started howling at a bag that was over 10 feet away. When he finally was allowed loose he started pouncing all over this woman's pull-along. The CBP agent asked her to open it up, it was full of cookies and pastries. I think she had some explaining to do.

This is still a perfect example of the stupidity of the TSA and their pat downs/NOS. I doubt anyone would object to a dog walking past them, and I would put good money on it that the dog is a 1000% more reliable then even the most advanced scanner and the brightest, highly qualified TSO. Still, as others have said, trained dogs cost only a few thousand dollars and will not enrich the bank accounts of certain former government officials, so I guess they're not a viable solution.
Training dogs can enrich the bank accounts of some former government officials, but nowhere near as quickly and on the scale to what expensive capital equipment with various kinds of affiliated service contracts can do for the same.

[There are ways to interfere with the effectiveness of dogs being used by the government to try to interdict contraband, whether it be explosives or untreated, fresh food stuff being sought.]
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