Customs’ list of prohibited items at Atlanta airport can snag travelers

For international travelers, bringing a prohibited item into the country can be a costly mistake, as one woman learned after being caught with an apple she was given on a Delta Air Lines flight.

There are some surprising items on U.S. Customs and Border Protection's list of prohibited and restricted items, ranging from certain types of absinthe to certain medications.

But fruits, vegetables and meat are some of the common items on the list of things travelers entering the United States must declare.

The passenger caught with the apple said she was given the fruit on her flight. Regardless, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said she should have declared it, and she now faces a fine of $500.

"Apples are prohibited from most areas in the world, as well as citrus," said Tasha Mashburn, an agriculture supervisor for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "The officer is going to ask [travelers], do you have any fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, foods, have you been on a farm or near any livestock, and all they have to do is say yes."

“The same goes for any of the food that is picked up on the aircraft. since those aircraft have the food loaded up at the point of origin that food is just as prohibited as any of these items,” Mashburn said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Atlanta port director Carey Davis said “even an apple…. It could have Mediterranean fruit fly in it, it could have a multitude of pests that could cost agriculture of the U.S. billions of dollars over time.”

Travelers must also declare plants, seeds, soil and animals, Customs says. And even animal products like soup or soup products should be declared, the agency says. Many fresh and dried meats and some canned meats and meat byproducts like beef broth are prohibited. Travelers should check U.S. Customs' website for information on prohibited items, the agency says.

Last fall, Customs in Atlanta stopped requiring the written declaration form from most passengers, as part of a move to a more paperless process. Instead, Customs officers ask passengers if they have any of the items that must be declared.

“We give you multiple opportunities to tell us. If you simply tell us, and it’s prohibited, we’ll take it, but no harm, no foul,” Davis said. “If you hide it and lie about it continually, we’re going to issue you a penalty.”

Some of the items prohibited or restricted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

Certain types of absinthe

Alcoholic beverages - Duties apply above 1 liter

Cultural artifacts

Drug paraphernalia


Fish and wildlife, parts such as skin, tusks, bone, feathers or eggs, or products made from them

Meat and meat products such as bouillon and soup mixes


Plants and seeds

Medication, particularly potentially-addictive medicines

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection. More details here: