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Sending mustard to the U.S.


sharonb
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Yesterday I had the always renewed pleasure of waiting in line for nearly half an hour at my local Poste to ship a package to a friend in Atlanta, GA.

Inside: 3 jars of mustard. Weight of package: a hair over 2kg.

The post office woman asked me what I was sending in my package and when I said, "De la moutarde," she looked at me and shook her head. Oh, no, that won't do. You can't send alimentary products to the U.S. People get their packages opened and pulled apart.

She took out a book of rules in different countries and flipped through it until she found the U.S. Yes, indeed, I needed to declare my package to the FDA and get a waiver to send it on, which would then be affixed to my package and everything could go smoothly.

This seemed utterly absurd to me! We're not talking about produce or meat or anything remotely dangerous, but jars (sterilized obviously by their maker - these are purchased jars of mustard available in stores) of ground mustard seed, vinegar, etc.

So now I have my carefully packed package on the counter in my hallway. I don't want to let down my mustard-loving friend, but the idea of going through all the hoops seems silly.

Does anyone else have experience sending food items through the Poste (or via some other means; because as a side remark, she told me that as my package was over 2kg it had to be send by Colissimo blablabla, some higher-up level of shipping, and would cost 37.50 € - which also kind of stinks...).

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I had a similar experience, but in the other direction. A friend sent some mustard to me from the states and it just never arrived. I don't know if it was a problem in the US or here or just a coincidence and had nothing to do with it being mustard, but I always suspected it had something to do with the alimentary products rules.

told me that as my package was over 2kg it had to be send by Colissimo blablabla, some higher-up level of shipping, and would cost 37.50 € - which also kind of stinks...).

It's too bad because at prices like that and with all the extra effort it hardly seems worth it - and you can buy so many speciality products online these days - she could probably find the same (or similar mustard) and have it shipped to herself for a lot less. (which I know isn't the same, but...)

Good luck with it.

52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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What exactly is an "alimentary product"? Does that just mean it's edible?

The USA has, in theory, some kind of rule about mailing food into the country--you're supposed to get prior clearance from the FDA by registering, and filling out paperwork for whatever you're sending (and you have to fill out paperwork every time you send food, though you only have to register once). It was discussed here on eGullet somehere (I thought I had started the topic), but I can't find it anywhere. It may have been deleted when the change happened.

That being said, the FDA or whatever agency is in charge of food imports says somewhere on their website that packages of food for personal consumption are very rarely stopped, even without that form. So the best thing to do would be to lie. Just say it's glass jars or something like that (which couldn't be entirely untrue, would it?). That way it can get past the French postal system (fwiw, the post offices in my part of Japan wouldn't allow food to be sent to the US, either), and if it gets checked in the US, they'll probably just let it go since they aren't enforcing their own rules.

2kg is the limit for small packages (reduced rates for sending packages by air). You could either repack in a lighter box with lighter wrapping paper, or just give your friend 2 jars. 2 jars is better than none!

Edited to add the link to the FDA site's info about mailing food. Scroll down about 2/3 or 3/4 of the way for the little charts, and you'll see that Non-commercial imports of food require advanced notification, but that this is generally not enforced. You could also just say the mustard is homemade, as homemade items to not require notification.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Lets face it the FDA rules make no sense & change all the time anyway.

I'd just send it and say "gift" on the customs declaration giving a modest value.

On the shipping I think you'll find that there are different sized Collisimo boxes. Each costs a set amount to send to different countries, BUT up to a maximum weight the price is the same. If I recall correctly the biggest Collisimo box costs 38 Euro, but you can put up to 8 kilos in it. Check it out.

I've had friends do this as a cheap way of getting things to the states. Well, cheaper than excess baggage anyway now that the airlines are hot on charging you.

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Yesterday I had the always renewed pleasure of waiting in line for nearly half an hour at my local Poste to ship a package to a friend in Atlanta, GA.

Unless it's very, very unusual mustard there's a good chance that your friend can buy it here in Atlanta in any case.

I'm finding it harder and harder to find items, food or otherwise, that are available in France and not in the U.S. unless they're essentially home-made.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Lets face it the FDA rules make no sense & change all the time anyway.

I'd just send it and say "gift" on the customs declaration giving a modest value.

On the shipping I think you'll find that there are different sized Collisimo boxes. Each costs a set amount to send to different countries, BUT up to a maximum weight the price is the same. If I recall correctly the biggest Collisimo box costs 38 Euro, but you can put up to 8 kilos in it. Check it out.

I've had friends do this as a cheap way of getting things to the states. Well, cheaper than excess baggage anyway now that the airlines are hot on charging you.

Wise advice from Dave, as usual. :smile:

The way I'd do it, and have done with success, is send two or three smaller packages instead of a big heavy one, and give noncommittal answers like "perfume", "artifacts", etc., and label the stuff as a gift.

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Friends: Could I request that we not use the Forum to encourage questionably legal or borderline irregular regulatory issues. PM’s or emails between friends are another matter.

And, we have indeed discussed this before here and here, as well as in other threads listed in our compendium.

Thanks,

John

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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