Don’t pack a pest

by Christopher Deegan, State Plant Health Director – Wisconsin
USDA APHIS Plant Protection & Quarantine

icon of live cells

Are you travelling abroad for pleasure, research, or to visit friends and family?

Be aware that the United States has laws that prohibit or restrict certain foods, plants, animals, and other agricultural items from other countries because they could be carrying damaging pests and diseases. This also includes biological specimens or soil samples for research.

When you return to the U.S., please do not pack fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, meats, dairy, wooden handicrafts, plants, seeds, soils, natural medicines, or other agricultural items. If you are collecting biological samples or field specimens to carry with you or to mail back to the U.S., please obtain a USDA import permit ahead of time.

You can find more information about what is prohibited at website: Don’t Pack a Pest! (  Remember, many items you may wish to bring are already available at stores in the United States.

Finally, always declare and tell the U.S. Customs Official if you have any food, plants, biological samples, or agricultural items when you arrive. You won’t be penalized if you declare, but not declaring can result in a penalty of up to $1,000.

Here are some resources for more information:

  • DPAP brochure for travelers. This quad fold brochure highlights some of the risks posed by invasive pests and provides examples of generally prohibited items. Also available as a PDF file.
  • Video. A one-minute video starring U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural detection dog Linus. Linus informs the traveling public about prohibited items and declaring agricultural items.
  • Don’t Pack a Pest.comwebsite and resources including guidelines on what is regulated or prohibited.
  • USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) permits. This website provides instructions on applying for import permits for biological samples and specimens regulated by USDA. Note that it may take up to 8 weeks to process your permit request, so please plan ahead and submit your application before you travel.

For more information about the Don’t Pack a Pest program, or USDA APHIS permits, please contact:

Christopher Deegan

State Plant Health Director – Wisconsin

USDA APHIS Plant Protection & Quarantine

Tel: 608-286-3608

Please connect with the Office of Biological Safety (OBS) if you have any questions.

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