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I have a homemade tomato sauce, 100% made in Italy, that I would like to bring to a friend in the US. I've read all the US customs documentation: it is written that I have to declare it, but not if it would pass or get seized.

Considering I'm shipping this, if it gets seized that would cost me a substancial amount of money I can't afford to loose (overseas shipping is expensive).

The sauce is made 100% in a single country and contains absolutely no meat or products derived from meat. The sauce would travel in a vacuum jar, with no label on it (it is not a commercial product): would that be accepted?

  • If you have canned your red sauce, like a good Italian :-), it will be in a jar and shouldn't be a problem, particularly since you're carrying it with you. Canned goods and goods in vacuum packed jars (other than those containing meat or poultry products) are also generally admissible if being imported for personal use. You use two conflicting words, though; bring and ship: for bring, you and the sauce would travel together; for ship, you'd post it, and arrival and enjoyment may be less certain. – Giorgio Dec 8 '16 at 1:18
  • Sorry if I wasn't clear: I will actually ship it. Thought the rules were the same but I understand why one might be easier than the other. Thanks for your input! – Saturnix Dec 8 '16 at 1:25
  • Correct, the rules are the same; it will be inspected at a postal facility. If you're able, I would strongly recommend a non-breakable container, such as what is used to vacuum seal food that is to be sous vide and, inside the package, write the ingredients (cooked tomatoes, dried herbs, olive oil, etc.). If you make the sauce with bay leaves (foglie di alloro), as I do, remove them before packing into the container. – Giorgio Dec 8 '16 at 1:43
  • A question about shipping food to the USA doesn't really fall under "travel", have voted to close. – user13044 Dec 8 '16 at 4:51
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Not very likely.

The main concern - and your success - would be to convince the Customs that the jar contains what you say it does, and that it is prepared properly (i.e. there are no disease cultures left). Note that they have no means to verify that it indeed contains no meat products (such as bullion), eggs or other prohibited products, and you're unlikely to have a certificate of origin. Here is a list of food products allowed and prohibited from bringing into the USA. As you can see, the list of prohibited products lists much more than just meat products (for example, some sorts of cheese from some countries are not permitted). While canned food are generally allowed, it is unlikely your jar would be considered "canned".

However you can bring any kind of food into the US, and as long as you declare it to Customs, there is no penalty. Then the Customs decide whether it could be passed or not - and if not, they simply confiscate it. Thus if you already made the sauce, or it is not huge investment, you're not risking much.

  • The linked web page does say that "prepared sauces" are generally admissable if they "do not contain meat products." – mkennedy Dec 8 '16 at 1:09
  • @mkennedy: the main issues he'd face here is proving that a) this is a prepared sauce (and not a minced meat, for example), and b) it contains no meat product. Note that it is in the unlabeled jar, and Customs is not going to taste it, so it might be more difficult than it appears. – George Y. Dec 8 '16 at 1:15
  • Thanks for your input! The jar is vacuum sealed, if you were to open it airs gets in and the sauce deteriorates quickly. Are you telling me they're likely to open it? I can write a label with all the ingredients if it's necessary: won't be a commercial grade one though. – Saturnix Dec 8 '16 at 1:21
  • Also, I'm a student and unemployed. Shipping stuff overseas is affordable but, yeah... would really suck if it gets seized! – Saturnix Dec 8 '16 at 1:23
  • @Saturnix: no, the Customs is not going to open it. They will either confiscate it (I'd say 65% chance), or let it through (35% chance). As I said, the main problem you face here is to convince them the jar indeed contains what you say it contains - could be drugs, for what they know. Label is no better than your words there. – George Y. Dec 8 '16 at 1:24

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