Food, plants sent stateside could carry diseases, pests

Robert Szostek

The Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in Europe in 2001 showed what
devastation foreign pests and diseases could wreak in the United States
if they ever get past the borders. For this reason, U.S. personnel
stationed in Europe must observe the strict rules that apply when they
take or send food or plants stateside.
“Many food items are prohibited from going back to the States,” said
William Manning, U.S. Department of Agriculture attaché to the European
Command. “Red meats, sausages, pâtés and salami can harbor germs or
disease viruses – even if canned – and are therefore barred from
import,” he explained. Even dried pasta or soup mixes containing meat
are not allowed.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are forbidden because they can contain the
eggs of voracious pests. Soil can also harbor the eggs of pests, so it
is essential to clean everything mailed or sent stateside – this also
rules out taking plants home.

However, processed vegetable or fruit products such as canned fruit,
olive oil or mustard can be mailed stateside. Cured cheeses, bread,
candies and cookies are also acceptable, Manning added.

For those who choose to ignore these laws, the Bureau of Customs and
Border Protection issues fines of at least $100. Officials say most
military mail violations originate in Germany and Spain and mainly
involve sausages and salami.

Visit the USDA website at to find
out about importing food, plants and animal products into the United