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Beebs

Smuggling Goodies

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Many years ago our trick was when coming into England to Always have something small to declare. A few extra cigarettes, an extra bottle of wine, something small like that.

The real thing we were smuggling, cheese, meats, pates, whatever, were never declared.

Because we'd been "honest" about the small stuff we were never charged and never had our bags checked.

Wouldn't try it today, however!

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Icelandic butter...I stood at customs saying,

well I have some candy you know chocolates...well they're not all chocolate and things like chips...oh ummm 1 bag of those is open is that OK?

just to make me shut up they sent me on my way

tracey

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We never smuggle anything. We live in a state where agriculture is a huge business - and I have no desire to introduce additional usually harmful exotic plants - pests - or diseases into our environment. FWIW - it is illegal for me to take/mail homegrown citrus out of state because I don't have an exporting license. Other reasons for food rules involve protecting the plant and animal environment (Hawaii has perhaps the strictest laws in the country in this regard because it has many unusual native species to protect).

Or human safety. We may question the wisdom of some of the latter rules - and perhaps some are out of date - or seem "nanny-state" - but a 90 year old grandma or a 2 year old child can get sick from eating a product that isn't labeled like similar US products are labeled (as being potentially dangerous to the very old - the very young - or people who are sick).

And even if the product you're smuggling is illegal but totally innocuous - isn't air travel hard enough these days without people screwing up waits at security lines for a piece of cheese? Robyn

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a few years ago our family took the train from Montreal to NY and we stopped at the border, a customs team with labrador boarded..the labrador sniffed out our son's baguette (cheese and ham) and ate it in a flash.....the customs lady was very apologetic... the rest of us thought it was quite humourous as we had eaten ours...from reading this thread I now realise it was a supremely efficient way of preventing banned food entering the country :smile:

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The rose hips thing made me remember one of Chris' trips to Europe. He was an avid home-brewer, so on a trip to Germany, he toured several small breweries. He asked if he could purchase some of the distinctive hops used in one beer that he particularly liked.

They said that he would not be allowed to take them out of the country, but if he would buy a set of the lovely Pilsners in the gift shop, they would ship them, and when they arrived, he must be sure to save the packing material.

So the glasses came, safe and sound, with about three pounds of dried hops surrounding them. He used some for a making of beer and we Ziplocked the rest and put them in the freezer. Where they immediately perfumed meat, ice cream, everything we had put up from the garden---the beans and peas and even bell peppers---all had that stinky-socks aroma of those Hops from Hell.

It took DAYS of cleaning and deodorizing to get that freezer back in working order, and we had to discard a lot of the food. :angry:

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The rose hips thing made me remember one of Chris' trips to Europe.  He was an avid home-brewer, so on a trip to Germany, he toured several small breweries.  He asked if he could purchase some of the distinctive hops used in one beer that he particularly liked.

They said that he would not be allowed to take them out of the country, but if he would buy a set of the lovely Pilsners in the gift shop, they would ship them, and when they arrived, he must be sure to save the packing material.

So the glasses came, safe and sound, with about three pounds of dried hops surrounding them.  He used some for a making of beer and we Ziplocked the rest and put them in the freezer.  Where they immediately perfumed meat, ice cream, everything we had put up from the garden---the beans and peas and even bell peppers---all had that stinky-socks aroma of those Hops from Hell.

It took DAYS of cleaning and deodorizing to get that freezer back in working order, and we had to discard a lot of the food. :angry:

Wow, that was awfully clever and nice of the brewery people!

The problem with US Customs is it is so unpredictable. I often bring stuff from HK when I go to visit my parents in California - stuff like laap cheung, moon cakes, Chinese mushrooms and scallops (I know you can get all of that in the States but it's mostly gifts from my auntie to my mother and besides, the HK laap cheung and mooncakes are very different). I'm stopped quite frequently. Customs has never had a problem with the scallops or mushrooms but the laap cheung is SOMETIMES tossed and other times it's not. A couple years ago, they made me go through the "something to declare" line and asked, "do you have mooncakes?" I said yes. "Do they have eggs in them?" I said "of course they have eggs!" He said he'd have to throw them away and I told him I've brought them in many times before and never had a problem. He said, "have you heard of bird flu?" Didn't matter, I guess, that the eggs are salted and cooked.

But an even sillier incident took place at Charles de Gaulle - although it had nothing to do with customs, it was when I was trying to check in my luggage for a flight back to HK. The person at the check-in counter said, "do you have any chocolate in your carry on luggage?" When I said yes she told me I'd have to put it in the check-in luggage. When I asked why she said, "because it can be melted and turned into a liquid!"

I didn't know they made chocolate explosives!

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But an even sillier incident took place at Charles de Gaulle - although it had nothing to do with customs, it was when I was trying to check in my luggage for a flight back to HK. The person at the check-in counter said, "do you have any chocolate in your carry on luggage?" When I said yes she told me I'd have to put it in the check-in luggage. When I asked why she said, "because it can be melted and turned into a liquid!"

I didn't know they made chocolate explosives!

:blink:

That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. If they let you bring a bagful of 100mL liquids on board, then a box of chocolates shouldn't be a problem. I can fit at least 5 100mL bottles in one of those plastic bags they give you--they think I can't combine them all to make some kind of explosives?

Not food, but the March after 9/11, some friends and I flew from Casablanca to New York. They allowed my friend on board with a fairly large dagger, but they confiscated my camera batteries. :wacko:

I'm planning to smuggle a sweet potato or two into Japan upon returning from summer holidays. My mother was going to bring me one last December, but she forgot it at home (where it languished until she returned almost 6 months later...).

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Just brought some vanilla beans back from Tahiti (and tiare tea). To be honest, I have no idea if I'm supposed to have them or not. Anyway, I marked the seeds category on my customs form, like a good girl, and handed the agent my form. Since my husband and I have different names, we filled out separate forms. The agent asked if we were married. I said yes. So he says "you only need one form" and crumples mine up and throws it in the trash. Well, ok. I guess I won't declare anything!

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But an even sillier incident took place at Charles de Gaulle - although it had nothing to do with customs, it was when I was trying to check in my luggage for a flight back to HK. The person at the check-in counter said, "do you have any chocolate in your carry on luggage?" When I said yes she told me I'd have to put it in the check-in luggage. When I asked why she said, "because it can be melted and turned into a liquid!"

I didn't know they made chocolate explosives!

:blink:

That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. If they let you bring a bagful of 100mL liquids on board, then a box of chocolates shouldn't be a problem. I can fit at least 5 100mL bottles in one of those plastic bags they give you--they think I can't combine them all to make some kind of explosives?

Haha! This reminds me of an SNL skit where a bunch of customs/security agents were in a seminar about items prohibited on the plane and they were asking all these questions to stump the instructor. This one guy said couldn't a bunch of terrorists all have a few little bottles of liquid, then combine them to make a big amount of liquid.

My mom always loads up my sister with homecooked goodies when she visits from the US. This visit she brought home meat buns. In the past, she's also taken back entire meals - chicken curries and stirfries with pork. Hasn't been stopped yet!

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I brought back several packets of vegetable and flower seeds from France a couple of years back. I had no idea that they were illegal until I was telling a friend about it and she told me. Nobody ever checked my bag. Although, thinking back, it's quite possible I forgot to put it on my declaration card.

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I'm bad...I bring lots of plants, seeds and foods every time I come back to Turkey from..wherever. That said, I always bare-root any plants (no soil) and am careful what seeds I bring. There have even been a couple of times where I reconsidered something (even though I may have been able to buy it here) and tossed seeds. This last time I brought back a salmonberry plant, which so far seems quite popular with the small green caterpillars that regularly decimate roses here, purple potatoes (for planting, they are doing great - here they don't even have red potatoes), and a sweet potato which unfortunately rotted before it could sprout. But though they probably should be more strict, Turkish customs never even asks. About the only thing they're interested in on the border with Greece is illegal amounts of alcohol, which they check for by lifting bags and checking for inordinate heaviness or clinking of bottles. I always bring cheese from Holland, and bacon from Greece. No fresh meat though.

I don't do it much when traveling to the US, and always declare what I have. Even commercial seeds are not legal to bring into the US without a phytosanitary permit any more, which I find silly, so I mail those freely.

My one big smuggling act however, was bringing a fresh durian from Vancouver's Chinatown to Seattle. We'd been there playing music for a folk dance party. I hadn't planned to smuggle it but I'd paid 30 Canadian for it and then not had a chance to eat it! I also had some seeds and a start of a plant from a friend there. I wrapped the durian in about 15 plastic grocery sacks, one inside the other, put it in my small suitcase, and put that under all the rest of the suitcases. By the time we got to the border, the smell was already starting to leak out into the car. We got up to the US side, and we got a customs agent that playing classic tough guy border ranger, with all the long pauses and suspicious long leers from behind his orange sunglasses. He asked,

"Where you been?"

Our driver: Vancouver.

"How long ya been there?"

- We went up yesterday.

"Whad'ja do there?"

- Went to a party.

"Party, eh... ..... ....Pretty wild party?"

- No, mostly middle-aged folk dancers. (Trying to inject some humor. Didn't work.)

"Whad'ja buy?"

- Nothing.

"You were in Vancouver for 3 days and you didn't buy anything?"

- Yeah...um, no, not 3 days, just one day.

"I'm gonna have you drive around the back there and have your IDs checked."

So we're all going "goddam...shit...f---ing Nazi..." as we drive under the sign saying, "It is forbidden to bring fruits (Bob!), seeds (Bob!) and plants (Bob!) into the United States." We went in, they took our IDs (during which time we were full expecting to come out and find them dismantling our car). Finally the guy came back looking puzzled and asked, "why did he send you here?" We said we had no idea. "Whatever, there's no reason for you to be back here, you can go on." One of our group was all huffy, as we went to the car, he started walking back towards the customs booths. "Where are you going?" we asked. "I'm gonna go ask him why he sent us over there!" All three of us said "The hell you are! Get back over here!"

The ultimate act of stupidity was a friend of mine who was going to Canada, and they found an old joint in his glove compartment. The customs agent asked if he had anything else...my friend said "Oh...let's see...well, let's see, I have some mushrooms...." (And we're not talking about porcini.)

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I'm usually very good. But this time I did bring a packet of Greek "salad " mix.....all kinds of dried herbs. My thought was it was commercially packed so OK. Not so sure about the home packed lavender. They sell tons of it to tourists, then does most of it get taken when you enter the U.S.? No beagles sniffing this time and people pouring through the agriculture lines at airport with no problem.

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I don't know that it qualifies as smuggling, per se, but here's a shot of Scud's luggage. He arrived back here from Canada the day after I returned from Thailand. One suitcase, one cardboard box, one hand carry.

gallery_22892_3828_9852.jpg

(if you're concerned, yes, he did have one set of spare clothing in his hand luggage).

gallery_22892_3828_26359.jpg

Coffee just happens to be really expensive, and I like the Mexican Blue Mountain (I like the Jamaican better, but I'm having to go for bulk).

gallery_22892_3828_26522.jpg

And nobody makes a better cracker, in my opinion (that's Gatorade powder underneath for Serena's baseball games).

I do wonder what Customs would say if they checked his bags (and they do check, quite often). In Egypt, way back when, we loaded up our in-laws with stuff, and they were checked.

"We do have food in Egypt, you know."

"Oh, we're very sorry! We weren't certain."

Luckily, the Egyptians are too nice to bother tourists.

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Has anyone ever had a cheese shop vacuum seal a cheese for travel? I would have liked to smuggle back some Camembert from France recently, but US Customs says soft, runny cheeses are not okay (hard cheeses are fine). I saw a cheese shop that said they vacuum sealed but real Camembert is SO stinky (I had a piece in a minifridge in my hotel room, and we smelled it as soon as we got off the elevator in the hall!) that I couldn't imagine that it would really contain the smell.

We have had cheeses vacuum sealed in Spain, Italy and Netherlands. Have never had a problem with it unless they xray and then I usually say it is cake. :laugh:

Icelandic butter...I stood at customs saying,

well I have some candy you know chocolates...well they're not all chocolate and things like chips...oh ummm 1 bag of those is open is that OK?

just to make me shut up they sent me on my way

tracey

I do this too! I can name a billion snack foods.

I generally bring back lots of tins of pates from France and although most are perfectly fine the TSA doesn't seem to know that which is why I kindof of fib about it. Also I have had sliced Serrano and Iberico vacuum packed and then slipped between double bagged shopping bags as carry ons. I have brought home lots of sausage from Spain and Italy- only loosing one that the damn beagle sniffed out in carry on. Also biltong from SA. Yes I like to bring home meat and cheese product!!!

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Daniel,

That was a funny story about parmesan cheese. However, customs today in the US are in the Dept. Of Homeland Security and more aggressive, backed by punitive regulations. Sadly, they have huge, unquestioned powers of discretions without commensurate discretion in some cases, and often lacking the necessary education, even the APHIS inspectors [the plant, food, animal people]. Jokes and light-hearted banter are strictly discouraged, and signage warns as much!!

Some years ago, it was legal to bring in small quantities of flower and vegetable seed for personal use, without a phytosanitary certificate, into the US provided these had been packed for retail sale elsewhere by a reputable seed company following strict international standards.

That said, there are some plant materials that pose a great and immediate hazard to the US economy and to growers. Stone fruits and propagating materials of such: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, that whole family that is so temptin to emigrants from Europe and Asia, to carry back a bit of a keepsake from a home lost for ever : sour cherry, sloe, plums, peaches et al. Sharka virus/plum pox, upon discovery, in a single plant, a 7 mile circumference is sanitized and quarantined for years: immense loss to growers, say in a peach area in Pennsylvania (peach microclimates not being common in the Northeast).

One of the most tragic cases ws at the reearch orchards of the Michigan State Universty, the same place that gave the world the famous Red Haven peach, the benchmark of the northern US freshmarket peach industry. A single infected plant necessitated the destruction of ALL trees, 40 YEARS of research. Scion tips were rescued and sent to Prosser, Washington, but NO research will be carried on for years at MSU!!

I know more than one Japanese who miss their home peaches so very much that they have brought pits and cuttings secretly into this country. Likewise, East Europeans, bringing sour cherries, currants etc. as plant material. This is why I hae alerted people elsewhere on eG the availability, for free, of much of this identical material, from US Germplasm banks. Figs quince, berries, apples, pears you name it, if it can grow in the US, all 50 states, we have it in stock , available for FREE distribution.

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Daniel,

That was a funny story about parmesan cheese. However,  customs  today in the US are in the Dept. Of Homeland Security and more aggressive, backed by punitive regulations. Sadly, they have huge, unquestioned powers of discretions without commensurate discretion in some cases, and often lacking the necessary education, even the APHIS inspectors [the plant, food, animal people]. Jokes and light-hearted banter are strictly discouraged, and signage warns as much!!

Some years ago, it was legal to bring in small quantities of flower and vegetable seed for personal use, without a phytosanitary certificate, into the US provided these had been packed for retail sale elsewhere by a reputable seed company following strict international standards.

That said, there are some plant materials that pose a great and immediate hazard to the US economy and to growers. Stone fruits and propagating materials of such: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, that whole family that is so temptin to emigrants from Europe and Asia, to carry back a bit of a keepsake from a home lost for ever : sour cherry, sloe, plums, peaches et al. Sharka virus/plum pox, upon discovery, in a single plant, a 7 mile circumference is sanitized and quarantined for years: immense loss to growers, say in a peach area in Pennsylvania (peach microclimates not being common in the Northeast).

One of the most tragic cases ws at the reearch orchards of the Michigan State Universty, the same place that gave the world the famous Red Haven peach, the benchmark of the northern US freshmarket peach industry.  A single infected plant necessitated the destruction of ALL trees, 40 YEARS of research. Scion tips were rescued and sent to Prosser, Washington, but NO research will be carried on for years at MSU!!

I know more than one Japanese who miss their home peaches so very much that they have brought pits and cuttings secretly into this country. Likewise, East Europeans, bringing sour cherries, currants etc.  as plant material. This is why I hae alerted people elsewhere on eG the availability, for free, of much of this identical material, from US Germplasm banks. Figs quince, berries, apples, pears you name it, if it can grow in the US, all 50 states, we have it in stock , available for FREE distribution.

This is very enlightening. How does one go about identifying and obtaining the appropriate stock?

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Has anyone ever had a cheese shop vacuum seal a cheese for travel? I would have liked to smuggle back some Camembert from France recently, but US Customs says soft, runny cheeses are not okay (hard cheeses are fine). I saw a cheese shop that said they vacuum sealed but real Camembert is SO stinky (I had a piece in a minifridge in my hotel room, and we smelled it as soon as we got off the elevator in the hall!) that I couldn't imagine that it would really contain the smell.

yes, the vacuum packaging really does seal in the smell. Maybe the beagles can still smell it, but otherwise the smell won't give you away. Absent a shop with vacuum seal capacity, I've wrapped things on my own, with many layers, and not had problems. My favorite trick was to tuck small goat cheeses (wrapped, of course) in my shoes.

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gallery_41378_5233_255553.jpg

Well, I just got back from Hanoi, where I spent a significant amount of time eating, cooking, and shopping for things to bring back to Japan with me. I spent about an hour on the Japanese Customs website obsessively reading about restrictions, so I hope I didn't inadvertently bring in something prohibited.

Most of the stuff here could probably be sourced somewhere in Japan, but I haven't the time, inclination, or adequate train fare to go hunting it all down, and since it was all so cheap and readily available there, I snapped it up.

Pictured from the top right -

A kilo of Cafe Mai's Paris Mai coffee, IMHO the finest to be had in Hanoi;

Chin-su Hot Sauce, for fried rice and general dish-doctoring;

Vietnamese Honey (the item I was most worried about bringing in - animal product?)

Chili salt, for dipping and seasoning fried things;

Sesame candy, for o-miyage gifts to co-workers;

Tamarind paste, for a recipe I learned while there - chicken in tamarind sauce;

Perfume mushrooms (dried) for spring rolls;

Palm sugar, for Thai dishes;

Taro candy, for some of my students;

Chicken powder, a vital seasoning agent in many North Vietnamese dishes;

In the middle, a box of Milo for my co-worker, who got hooked on it while doing a homestay in Australia, and who maintains the Japanese version "just doesn't have the crunchy bits";

On top of the Milo, a bottle of pho broth seasoning, if I ever get up the energy to make my own pho;

On the left of the Milo, a thin braid of Russian smoked cheese, for snacking;

Next to which are some curry packets pressed on me by a friend, and some rice papers, which I imagine will eventually form spring rolls - I learned a neat trick or two on this trip for them;

And in the far back a box of Huong Nguyen green bean cakes - more souvenirs to press on my unsuspecting students and co-workers.

Not pictured is another bag of coffee my husband swore was the best he ever had - purchased somewhere near Dien Bien Phu.

Regrets? I forgot to pick up the fried shallots to go in the spring rolls, although I've seen them in Japan (although for a much higher price!), as well as cashews, which are unbelievably good in Vietnam.

Now I need to get cooking.

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On day 4 of a 3-week trip through central Italy, we were unable to resist stopping in at a small farm-based cheese-manufacturer near Pienza. There were 4 of us travelling and we each bought a whole pecorino. They vacuum packed them for us and off we merrily went.

It was only later that it became clear that we would now have to babysit these cheeses for the remainder of the trip. Wherever we stayed, we had to ask to have our cheeses stored in their fridge and we hunted daily for ice to put in our little insulated tote bag when we were on the road. The most absurd moment of all was when we went to the beach at Viareggio and realized that we would have to bring the cheeses (packed into the cooler tote) to the beach with us because we couldn't leave them in the hot car. I only wish that I had thought to take a photo of our pecorinos lounging on a beach chair under an umbrella.

After all that, customs was the least of our problems. A couple of weeks after arriving home, pecorino intact, I cut into it and it was delicious.

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we just came back from siena last week and i'm *kicking* myself for not smuggling more stuff. much to my law-abiding husband's dismay, i did manage to bring back some guanciale from a fantastic shop in greve-en-chianti. haven't cut into it yet, but am sure it'll be terrific.

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Daniel,

That was a funny story about parmesan cheese. However,  customs  today in the US are in the Dept. Of Homeland Security and more aggressive, backed by punitive regulations. Sadly, they have huge, unquestioned powers of discretions without commensurate discretion in some cases, and often lacking the necessary education, even the APHIS inspectors [the plant, food, animal people]. Jokes and light-hearted banter are strictly discouraged, and signage warns as much!!

Some years ago, it was legal to bring in small quantities of flower and vegetable seed for personal use, without a phytosanitary certificate, into the US provided these had been packed for retail sale elsewhere by a reputable seed company following strict international standards.

That said, there are some plant materials that pose a great and immediate hazard to the US economy and to growers. Stone fruits and propagating materials of such...

Add citrus greening to the list of agricultural disasters caused in part by smuggling. Robyn

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