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According to this USDA document I'm allowed to bring certain foods (for personal use) into the US from other countries but I have to declare them. For dried fruits it says "INSPECT AND RELEASE". Where should I carry these items to facilitate my trip through customs? Or does it not matter whether it's on my person or in checked bags? (I haven't done this before and don't know how the customs inspection works.)

I'll be flying from Israel to the US by way of a layover in Canada (3 hours, not leaving the airport). The US customs inspection occurs in Canada.

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3 Answers 3

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If you're going through customs and having all your stuff inspected (as you will be) it shouldn't matter as you'll have all your bags with you. However, if you want to speed things up, have them readily available, in a separate plastic bag. If you have a piece of fruit loose in your luggage, they'll likely want to check the rest of your luggage to make sure none has gotten further down.

The inspect and release is probably to look for insects or seeds, so once they're satisfied, you'll get it back.

Note that if you're at all unsure, ALWAYS declare. Failing to declare something as seemingly innocuous as a piece of fruit in some places (Aus, NZ) can get you a sizeable fine - enough to put a dampener on your trip. Yes you're going through Canada and the US, but check their customs signs and anything you're uncertain on - check with them.

Hot tip: I've heard and seen people declaring stuff to speed up their trip through customs - by going in the short 'declare' line and declaring something that is clearly not a problem (like prescription medicine) they get waved straight on through and out faster than anyone in the 'normal' line!

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Meat from South Africa -> Namibia is a no no as well. If your taking food always pay very close attention to the rules. –  Stuart Jun 21 '12 at 9:54

It doesn't really matter where you carry these goods. Customs will (or won't) check your luggage after you've picked up your checked in luggage.

Sometimes, in more paranoid times, customs might walk around the luggage pick-up area with sniffer dogs trained to smell out fruits, cheese or other goods. The dogs are good, so if you're carrying anything that's food and prohibited, and there are dogs sniffing around, you're unlikely to get away with it.

Mostly, though, you'll get away with bringing in any kind of food, unless what you're carrying is prohibited and you're explicitly asked to have your luggage checked. But then, anyway, you'll just lose the food, or have to eat it on the spot, and it won't matter whether you're carrying it in your hand or checked in luggage.

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Customs/quarantine checks happen after collecting your checked luggage so fucnctionally it should not matter. However from personal experience, I would suggest keeping it somewhere easily accessible, regardless of whether it travels in the hold or with you, as getting it out tends to be the most time consuming part.

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Hmm, I wonder how that works with the Canadian layover, then. The airline told me that my luggage would be checked through to my destination, but it sounds like that can't be true with US customs clearance happening in Canada. –  Monica Cellio Jun 20 '12 at 20:55
    
Good point. I would have assumed that that meant you needed to collect and re-check your bags. Hopefully someone with experience of that detail will provide an answer as well. –  dlanod Jun 20 '12 at 20:58
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@MonicaCellio you will have to collect your baggage for inspection (always for flights to US), and then recheck them in. It will be checked in to the final destination in TLV, but it doesn't matter. –  littleadv Jun 20 '12 at 23:19
    
@littleadv, thanks! –  Monica Cellio Jun 21 '12 at 0:40

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