by Katie Glaudell
Marché offers incredible cheeses from Europe’s best dairies in France, Spain, the Netherlands, and beyond. If you’re planning to visit any of these cheese-minded paradises this holiday season, you might be fantasizing about loading up your suitcase with mouthwatering wedges and wheels directly from the motherland. But which cheeses can and can’t make it back through customs? How should they be packed? We’re here to answer these burning questions, with a little help from industry expert Janet Fletcher.
The good news is, most cheese is cleared for travel as long as it’s for personal consumption and not commercial sale. Janet Fletcher, prize-winning food journalist and author of one of our favorite blogs Planet Cheese, has recently written a wonderful guide titled, “Before You Travel with Cheese, Know the Regs,” answering exactly this question.
Headquartered in Napa Valley, Janet Fletcher is a multiple James Beard Award-winning journalist, author and chef. Beginning college with a path to business school, she switched gears when she fell in love with the farmers markets and food culture of Provence, France. Now she writes and teaches about cheese, food, and wine, and when she’s not busy with her many collaborations, projects, and classes, she loves working in her beautiful terraced garden.
If you want to hear more about dairy and its fermented delights, we highly recommend exploring Fletcher’s Planet Cheese, as well as her winter recipes to welcome in the new season!
Why are there different USDA customs regulations for cheese compared to other popular food souvenirs like chocolate, jam, or cookies? Cheese contains live bacteria cultures, much like probiotic yogurts, which are important and unique to the character of the cheese. As a sort of living organism and as a perishable food, cheese makes a more attractive home than a sealed package of cookies for unsafe bacteria, invasive species, and diseases, especially if it’s not kept cold long enough.
Unwanted pests could potentially hitch a ride to the U.S. on foods like cheese and harm agriculture production and native ecosystems, which is why it’s so important to respect customs laws regarding food whether entering a new country or returning home.
As long as you follow the USDA guidelines so helpfully laid out in Janet Fletcher’s article, you should feel free to travel, taste, and take home cheese to your heart’s content. Just remember to declare everything at customs, and let us know via Instagram or Facebook your favorites that you brought back!