What Food Can You Take Across the Canada and USA Border?

By Sarah Albertini-Bond
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All countries have regulations limiting what can be brought across their borders. The regulations on bringing food and drinks into Canada differ for personal consumption (that is, visitors bringing across their own food) and for someone selling that food there. Generally, foods allowed (baby formula, cheese, etc.) and those that are not (putterfish, baked goods with meat in them, etc.) correspond to Canadian federal regulations, though they may differ from individual Canadian provincial regulations. So check before you go (see contact information).

Canadian Government Agencies

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the Canadian federal agency with oversight of Canada’s food chain. When travelers cross the border, the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) performs the inspection of food, plants and animal products. This agency regulates what food you can bring across the border when entering Canada.

Guidelines for Entering Canada

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In general, visitors may bring certain goods as personal items. Personal items are duty and tax free, provided that the items are declared to CBSA when arriving. Even when bringing in food for personal consumption, there are limits. Below are some guidelines that the CBSA has for common foods:

*Cheese--20 kilograms (kg)/person and the value of which cannot exceed $20 Canadian

Restrictions on food when entering Canada: *Baby formula--must be commercially packaged, sterile and for personal use only; up to a maximum of 20 kg/person

*Fresh fruits--250 kg/person

*Tea, coffee, condiments--allowed

*Baked goods--allowed except for those containing meat

*Seafood--all species allowed except for putterfish and Chinese mitten crab

*Meat and poultry (fresh, frozen, chilled or prepared--i.e., deli meats)–20 kg/person (restriction of 5 kg/person on beef, goat and sheep meat)

*Fresh vegetables--root crops are regulated, and potatoes are prohibited

*Dried fruit and vegetables--250 kg/person

*Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables--20 kg/person

Warnings About Entering Canada

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If you don't declare your items (food or otherwise) that you bring into Canada it could result in: confiscation of products; fines up to $400 Canadian per undeclared item; and prosecution by a Canadian court.

If you arrive in Canada and are unsure about an item, you may ask the CBSA official at the border for assistance. If the item is restricted or prohibited, then you can throw it away without penalty.

Tips for Entering Canada and Exiting Safely

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The import law is always changing, so call CBSA before you leave for Canada to verify what is and is not allowed.

In addition to the federal law, individual Canadian provinces may have their own regulations regarding the importation of food.

Declare everything you have with you--it’s better to declare at the beginning than to be suspected later of trying to smuggle something when you simply neglected to declare it in the first place.

Contact Information for Regulatory Agencies

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As regulations are always changing, it is advisable that you contact the CBSA for the most up-to-date regulations and restrictions. You can call CBSA at (204) 983-3500 or (506) 636-5064.

About the Author

Sarah Albertini-Bond is a writer who lives in Virginia Beach. She's written pieces on religion and transportation, as well as technical manuals. In addition to her background in literature and logistics, she has her U.S. Customs Brokers license and a certificate in the Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry Arts.

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