Many of us are used to living between borders and constantly crossing to Mexico and back, but we tend to fear bringing the wrong agricultural items back to the U.S. and facing a penalty.

The United States has placed restrictions or outright bans on the entry of several agricultural products due to the potential of carrying foreign pests and diseases that can harm American agriculture and the environment. A significant outbreak of pests or diseases could lead to increased food prices, shortages of certain foods, and devastating losses for our farmers and ranchers.

Don’t Pack A Pest is a program in partnership with the USDA and CBP to educate travelers about the risks of bringing undeclared agricultural items into the U.S. 

So here is a list that I hope makes your life easier when traveling back into the U.S.

You can find this list(Spanish version) in the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry X-ray baggage scanners./ Photo: Carolina Herrera

It’s important to note that fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, whether whole or cut, are generally not allowed to enter the United States. This is because they pose a significant risk of carrying pests and diseases that could harm American agriculture. This prohibition also applies to fresh produce given to you during your flight or cruise.

  • Avocados—without seeds (according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) no avocados are admitted into California).
  • Sabila leaves
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries (Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries)
  • Cuitlacoche and Corn
  • Dates
  • Garlic
  • Herbs (Cilantro, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach, Watercress)
  • Jicama
  • Lemon and Limes (must be without leaves)
  • Lettuce
  • Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon)
  • Pineapples
  • Onions (including green onions and chives)
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers (bell, chili, and jalapeno peppers;manzano peppers are not allowed
  • Prickly Pears (Dragon fruit is NOT PERMITTED)
  • Sugar Cane (WITHOUT peel)
  • Tamarind
  • Tomatoes and tomatillos
  • Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes (cooked only)
  • Grapes

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, you may bring:

  • Canned pork meat
  • Cooked Poultry (thoroughly cooked throughout)
  • Beef
  • Sheep and goat meat

USDA does not allow travelers to bring back most cattle, swine, sheep, or goat meat or meat products from countries affected with certain serious livestock diseases: Foot-and-mouth disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), swine vesicular disease, classical swine fever, and African swine fever.

  • Liquid milk and milk products for infants or small children are allowed in small quantities (enough for several days’ use).
  • Products containing powdered or dry milk (baby/infant formula, baking mixes, soup mixes, drink mixes) are allowed in small quantities if they are properly labeled.
  • Commercially-packaged, labeled, cooked, shelf-stable, fully finished food items in unopened packages are allowed.
  • Butter
  • Butter Oil
  • Solid hard or soft cheeses (as long as the cheese does not contain meat or pour like a liquid, i.e., ricotta or cottage cheese)
  • Acorns
  • Almonds
  • Cocoa beans
  • Chestnuts
  • Coconuts [without husks or milk]
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Piñon [pinenut]
  • Walnuts

All of these products are strictly for personal use only and must not be brought back into the U.S. for commercial purposes.

Remember, as long as you declare all the agricultural products you are bringing with you, you will not face any penalties.

For more information, please contact USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service at (202) 720-9904 or Also, check out Don’t Pack A Pest, where you can find more detailed information. 

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