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When using Global Entry to clear US customs, one of the four questions is (not verbatim) "do you have food?". I think it gives examples of fruits, meats, cheese, etc. which to me sound like unprocessed/raw foods.

However, I've read reports on the Internet of people getting chewed out or even kicked out of GE for failing to declare things that we would call food, such as potato chips, chocolate bars, sweets, and various other processed/mass-produced foods.

I've also read about people getting chewed out for declaring such food items and told that they are "wasting time" by doing so.

Is there an authoritative guide somewhere that defines these terms? I'm probably going to err cautiously and declare my bag of chips as food, but if there's a firm regulation or something that clears me, great.

  • 2
    Anything intended to be eaten or drunk is food. – phoog Aug 4 '17 at 15:18
  • @phoog I was expecting such a literal definition and it's what I would do as well, but seeing some of the people on Flyertalk post things like this made me worry: I had chocolates, he said you are "screwing up the system" then did some typing in the computer and rolling his eyes he said go on through. – Brian R Aug 4 '17 at 15:31
  • Food qualified as food ;) including drinks. The Declaration rules don't change with GE, you still have to declare all food. – Johns-305 Aug 4 '17 at 15:33
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    :) Your screwing up the system by using Global Entry, then bringing something that requires inspection. The 'expectation' is that GE entrants will avoid carrying food and other items to (legally) avoid Immigration, Customs and Agriculture Inspection. – Johns-305 Aug 4 '17 at 15:36
  • The more I'm reading about this, it sounds like customs people are as bad as TSA in creating/modifying rules in their heads and you're likely to get yelled at no matter what, but nobody will revoke your GE for playing it safe. I'll self-answer this. – Brian R Aug 4 '17 at 15:38
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After researching further and reading several discussions on the subject, it appears that the questions about food is ambiguous and CBP agents are not consistent in their advice. This question was intended to prevent revocation of GE permissions due to breaking the rules with a secondary purpose of not annoying CBP agents.

The general consensus seems to be that CBP agents may take opposing sides in the clarification of what defines a declarable food, and that the best method to ensure that GE status is not revoked is to always answer 'yes, I have food' if you are carrying anything that goes into your mouth. Some people suggest that this even extends to items like alcohol (likely) and medicine (dubious).

  • I agree that medicine is dubious. In leaving my earlier comment, though, I wonder about animal food, which I suppose also must be declared. – phoog Aug 4 '17 at 15:54
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    I am downvoting because this Answer is not an accurate reflection on the process. There is nothing at all ambiguous about the rules and the definition of food does not change for GE members, you must declare. If you don't have food, don't declare. Keep in mind, if the food items are clearly allowed, Belgian Chocolates from the airport gift shop, the CBP Officer at GE check point can clear you immediately. It's not that big a deal. – Johns-305 Aug 4 '17 at 16:07
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If in doubt, declare. You can lose Global Entry/Sentri/NEXUS if you misdeclare and are caught.

Anecdotally, my experiences have been that they want you to declare anything edible. Pet food counts. Snacks count. Fresh produce certainly counts and must always be declared. Chewing gum... probably doesn't count.

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