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As an European citizen living in Canada, I am going to fly from Montreal (YUL) to the USA (SFO).

I was planning to bring a sandwich (with tomato, lettuce...) and some fruit to eat on the plane.

When flying to the US from Europe, this is fine since everything has been eaten when clearing the customs on arrival.

However, it seems that there will be a US customs preclearance at YUL, and bringing fruits and vegetables in the US from Canada is a complicated matter.

Will these food items be an issue during the preclearance ?

  • Related (though not a duplicate, since this question deals specifically with preclearance): Why can't I take food from the plane when entering the US? – Michael Seifert Nov 13 '17 at 19:15
  • The solution here is simple: buy at the airport after you have passed through US preclearance. Anything you buy there will be deemed to have been bought in the US for customs purposes. There are shops and restaurants behind US preclearance, just as there are in domestic and standard international terminals. – Jim MacKenzie Nov 13 '17 at 23:36
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When you are asked (on a piece of paper or on a screen) if you have any food, fruit/veg, plants or their parts, say yes. Same for meat. When you reach the person, you will be asked in a very bored voice "What food do you have?" (I know because I ticked yes to that after having visited a farm the previous day, and that's what I was asked, leading to a lot of confusion.)

The officer will then make a decision and either take your food or let it through. Beef is generally taken including roast beef sandwiches and beef jerky. But not all food will be taken. On another occasion there were a whole pile of apples abandoned just before the pre-clearance and I asked about it. "I don't have an apple," I told the officer, "but are they banned?" "Nope." [this was years ago and they might be now, not the point.] "So why are there all those apples out there?" "People think they are banned and ditch them. They don't come in here and ask me."

If you fail to declare food, especially meat, when entering either Canada or the US, you could be fined hundreds of dollars. Declare it. Alternatively, buy yourself some cleared and legal food in the airport after pre-clearance.

  • I've taken cooked ground beef a few times, like meatballs, and they let me through with it no problem. I guess YMMV – makhdumi Nov 13 '17 at 21:17
  • Wow. I guess it depends on the current mad cow situation, or perhaps the land border is stricter on beef than the airport, since I believe the beef losses I was told about were all at land borders. But anyway, declare, let them decide, no harm done. – Kate Gregory Nov 13 '17 at 21:32
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    This is a good post. Worst case scenario: US Customs will have you surrender the food, but you will not be in breach of their rules. – Jim MacKenzie Nov 13 '17 at 23:37
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All food must be declared. It is that simple, meaning, it's not at all complicated.

CBP or the Dept. of Agriculture are the ones who make the decision, not you. :(

If the officer allows your sandwich, you're good to go. It doesn't matter that it's a sandwich or whole tomatoes, a loaf of bread and a pack of cheese. You must declare it.

CBP Info - Food - General Food

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So you have a sandwich containing a few vegetable like lettuce, tomatoes etc. As a general advisory, you can consult this link for "Fruit and Vegetable Import Advisory".

Will it be an issue? No, it won't be an issue but you should definitely declare that you have food. It is highly likely that the customs officer will let you go after asking a few standard questions e.g. do you have meat? if yes is it raw or cooked? etc.

Worst case situation is that they will "confiscate" your sandwich and throw it away and you can go on to your flight.

PS: It does seem that there are no issues in bringing tomatoes and the "above-ground parts" of lettuce.

  • I checked the said page, but was confused, because for tomatoes, it says "Commercial Consignments Only", and that generally, Canada-grown fruits/vegetables are admissible if they are "labeled as such" – Klaus Nov 13 '17 at 15:31
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    That's because, technically, that page is valid for commercial imports only. You can use it as a reference to see what fruits or vegetables from Canada are admissible. For example, if you're bringing some eatable from Canada but it's not listed then I'd recommend to not bring it. But if it is listed then you will be fine, just declare it wherever required. – Newton Nov 13 '17 at 15:39
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    Upon checking dontpackapest.com, it seems that e.g. eggplant or lettuce are OK, but not tomatoes or peppers! – Klaus Nov 14 '17 at 3:57

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