Just this morning I packed some aged parmesan into my daughter’s lunchbox for school. “The good stuff, the real thing, you know the one you bring from Italy every time, how old is it 38 years?”, yes, that’s what she said less than an hour ago. Okay, this particular Parmigiano Reggiano is “only” aged for 38 months, but maybe the journey from Magliano Sabina via California to the Carolinas added to the curing a bit… So yes, I brought cheese back to the U.S. and have been doing so for 15+ years – and guess what, it is fully legal. I am talking hard cheeses, and alongside I usually bring also German bread and pretzels, jams and a whole lot more. So when I logged into Facebook, I was quite saddened to read this story from Travel + Leisure illustrated with the photo of a queso Manchego if I am not mistaken:

What Happens to Food After the TSA Confiscates it?”
Ever wondered what happened to your customs-confiscated jamon serrano? Brace yourself: the truth is hard to bear.

And no, she doesn’t get the privilege of eating your epicurean souvenirs, as many travelers might suspect. All confiscated goods—whether they be shrink-wrapped Swiss Gruyère or fresh rambutans from Thailand—get manually inspected for bugs and parasites, dumped into a contraband bin, and ground up in a supersized InSinkErator, where they meet their ultimate death.

Just do us a favor—don’t get caught with the really good stuff. Watching beautiful cured meats go down the drain might be the finest example of a first-world problem, but it still comes with its fair share of heartbreak.

According to a new behind-the-scenes video by Great Big Story, those illegal imports end up in the hands of agents like U.S. customs supervisor Ellie Scaffa, who personally sorts through—and ultimately disposes—up to 600 pounds of fruits and vegetables a day per terminal at New York’s JFK Airport. “I’ve been threatened with my life,” she says about her efforts to protect American agriculture from threats like Chinese beef candy, Jamaican mangoes, or peppers from Guyana.

As former journalist, very frequent foodie traveler, and longtime reader of Travel + Leisure it is sad to see such bad reporting. Don’t scare people about bringing any edible souvenirs back. There are many acceptable tasty authentic local foods that one can legally bring back to the U.S. – especially hard cheeses which are not just mentioned in this poorly researched piece, but also used to illustrate the story. Quite disappointed.

Would love to hear from other travelers.

#culinarytravelweek #foodieontour #travelicious

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