Customs Guide: Items You Can’t Bring into the US

An experienced customs broker can be very helpful in getting your items cleared through customs, but not even the best broker can help you get customs clearance for certain banned items. The following items are totally prohibited from being brought into the country:

a world map in man hands forming a heart (Earth map furnished by NASA)
a world map in man hands forming a heart (Earth map furnished by NASA)
  1. Pork from Oaxaca, Mexico. The United States generally bans meat from most parts of the world to come into the country, but the main exception is most of the NAFTA countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras. These countries are allowed to send just about anything to the US, with the exception of horsemeat and eggs. Strangely enough, eggs from the Netherlands and Canada are allowed.

What’s especially strange is that raw pork from Mexico may or may not be allowed onto the US, depending on which Mexican state the pork comes from. If it comes from Quintana Roo or Chihuahua, it’s okay. However, if it’s from Oaxaca, it’s not okay at all.

  1. Kinder Eggs. This is one of the most famous, and for many one of the most absurd, banned items in the US importation list. These chocolate eggs contain a plastic toy inside and according to the FDA, the toy inside represents a choking hazard for children. However, since 1989 many billions of these eggs have been sold – and there have been only 7 deaths worldwide due to Kinder Eggs.
  2. Shark fins. The US bans the practice of chopping off fins from sharks, so since 2011 you can only bring shark fins into the US if it’s still attached to the shark body. However, some states have already banned the possession, sale, and distribution of these fins – whether it’s still attached to the shark or not.
  3. Queen conch. It may seem like a giant slug, but for some the queen conch is considered a delicacy: the exact reason why there’s been excessive fishing of queen conches in the Caribbean in recent years. Consequently, the US banned the importation of queen conches in 2003, whether they’re dead or alive.
  4. This is an example of an item being banned as a consequence of the fear of dangerous insects entering a country. You can’t bring in rice from numerous countries because of the threat of the Khapra beetle, which is considered among the most invasive species in the whole world.
  5. In the case of haggis, it’s only the sheep’s lungs that aren’t allowed. However, this is the particularly crucial part of the recipe! Sure, you can bring in haggis without the sheep lungs…but then, is that still haggis?
  6. Sea turtles. These are just one of the listed animals on the endangered species list, and none of them can be imported into the US.
  7. Trophies from captive lions. Some captive lions in South Africa are hunted in confined spaces, and some “hunters” import trophy parts from the lions as if they were actually mighty hunters. However, it’s now prohibited to import trophies like the head, skin, claws, and teeth back into the US.

So, before you engage a customs broker, it’s important to make sure that your item is actually allowed to enter the US. If they’re on this list, there’s absolutely no way that the item will be able to gain customs clearance – no matter what you do.

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