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What are the rules on bringing cheeses and meats to the US from Italy?

The Local Italy
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What are the rules on bringing cheeses and meats to the US from Italy?
What are the rules on bringing Italian cheeses into the US? Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

Many US travelers to Italy want to take home a taste of their holiday at the end of their trip - but it's important to make sure you avoid falling foul of US customs regulations. Here's what the rules 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 what's left of your euros on an expensive aged cheese or piece of cured meat, only to have your precious cargo seized by a border agent as soon as you land. So how can you avoid that happening?

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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 Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino, etc. are perfectly legitimate, provided you check they've not been flavoured with any kind of meat.

Solid cheeses such as parmigiano and pecorino are always allowed into the US. Solid cheeses such as parmigiano and pecorino are always allowed into the US. Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

To prolong their shelf-life, it's best to get them vacuum wrapped. Most deli counters will provide this service: ask for la confezione sottovuoto.

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 i.e. ricotta or cottage cheese."

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That indicates that cheeses such as mozzarella are fine to take with you - regulation-wise. Bear in mind, though, that mozzarella is a fresh-milk cheese that should be eaten soon after production and requires refrigeration, so it is unlikely to travel well on a plane.


These rules are strictly for personal consumption - when it comes to importing cheese into the US for resale, if the product is made from raw or unpasteurised milk (as is the case for most Italian cheeses), 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 U.S. by the FDA."

What if you want to take some prosciutto or salami back with you?

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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 travelers."

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


So while you can bring all the parmigiano (and, it seems, mozzarella) you like back to the US, you'll need to seek out an Italian deli back home when you start craving a salame piccante or ‘Nduja.

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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