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Five of the Best Banned Items You Absolutely Can't Bring Back Home

July 26, 2012 at 2:15 PM | by | ()

If you’re not happy with the souvenir options from the airport, there’s always thinking outside the box. Just be sure to watch where you shop, because some stuff that’s cool abroad isn’t as cool once you arrive at US Customs and Border Patrol. Here’s a list of some of the best stuff you just have to leave behind. Oh, and skip the bootleg purse or watch—those are banned too.

Kinder Eggs

A couple from Seattle learned this the hard way recently, as they were detained at the border over their chocolate contraband. Kinder Eggs—popular pretty much everywhere but the US—aren’t allowed to be brought into the nifty fifty. Basically the issue is that the little toys inside the chocolate eggs are a choking hazard, and the FDA isn’t too cool with them because food with non-nutritive objects in it is a big fat nope. So for now keep your candy separate from your toys, and you’ll be okay.


Wander through an overseas liquor store and you might come across the green fairy, but just be sure that you consume what you need aboard—the real good stuff isn't looked kindly upon in the United States. Even though most absinthe isn’t the stuff of literary legend, anything with just the word "absinthe" on the label is questionable. According to Uncle Sam it’s also against the law to import any absinthe beverage especially if the label shows artwork or pictures hinting at hallucinogenic or mind-altering effects—bummer.


Times were tough abroad and you have some broth and noodles left over? Well toss it in the trash, because it’s not going to get you far once you return home. Customs officials aren’t fans of pretty much anything containing even the smallest little bit of meat, and that means that stuff like soup mix or bouillon isn’t going to fly. Slurp your soup back at the airport or be prepared to step out of the line for additional search—and possibly seizure. Oh, and it kind of goes without saying, but haggis also needs to stay behind—that’s big time meat.


Most cheese—both hard and semi-soft—is probably okay, but of course Uncle Sam has the right to disagree. The rules seem to be a little less stringent here, but don't try smuggling cheese that's partially a liquid. That means ricotta cheese is probably best left in Italy, and the runny stuff from France or England should also be consumed while on vacation. Oh, and for those who prefer meat with their cheese, that’s a no too—assuming that they were prepared together.

Cuban Cigars

This kind of goes for anything from a country that the United States has an terrible relationship with, so if Hillary Clinton isn’t bringing it home for Bill—you shouldn’t either. Any merchandise or other goodies from embargoed countries like Iran, Cuba, Burma (Myanmar), and most of Sudan is not the best idea. This obviously includes smokes from the island nation, but also include pretty much everything else. Exceptions to the rule are things like photographs, magazines and books, but blank media is still against the rules. So leave those blank CDs that you bought over in Iran back in Tehran before heading home.

Other Stuff

Just in case you wanted to know it’s not a good idea to bring back dog or cat fur into the US of A. It’s also probably best to leave that animal hide drum back in Haiti, because apparently the CDC isn’t too cool with them—they have been traced to cases of anthrax. Soil is also not welcome back at home, unless you have the necessary permits to transport. That means resist the urge to stock up at the foreign Home Depot, and get the Miracle-Gro when you get home.

If we missed anything—or you know how to smuggle it in anyway—be sure to leave a note in the comments below.

[Photos: CBP Photography, Francis Storr, and Arnaud H]

Archived Comments:

Absinthe is not illegal!

Absinthe is entirely legal in the US and has been for over five years now. Nice fact checking. https://www.facebook.com/Absinthia.The.Green.Fairy


While it's true that the laws were relaxed in 2007, the stuff we can drink in the US is not as wormwood-y, nor is it the traditional absinthe of Moulin Rouge-y legend.

Kinder Eggs

I bring back a few Kinder eggs every year when I visit Germany, amongst a whole shopping bag of other types of chocolate...they've never been taken away from me. Maybe I've just been lucky, but I've been doing this for years, I had no idea they were banned here. They do seem a bit dangerous for really young kids though, but I pick them up for a lady who collects the toys (after she eats the chocolate I assume). They're not great tasting chocolate anyway, so not worth the trouble.


Your information is incorrect. Many authentic brands in the US utilize the same amount of, if not more, wormwood than their counterparts in Europe. What you're referring to has nothing to do with the amount of wormwood. You're referring to thujone levels. Thujone is a chemical component of wormwood that has incorrectly portrayed as a hallucinogenic. While it is true that the EU limit for thujone is higher than the US (35 parts per milliom vs 10), the point that you're missing is that both numbers are referred to as THUJONE FREE by their respective governming bodies. Regarding pre-ban absinthe (pre-1915), studies have shown that many of the most popular brands would fall under the current'thujone free' guidelines. Brands that hype high levels of thujone are more than likely knockoff brands that bear no resemblance to authentic absinthe from the Belle Epoque. Cheers, Brian Robinson Review Editor Media Liaison The Wormwood Society