How to Transport Iberian Ham and Other Foods on International Flights

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When Spaniards go on vacation or travel abroad for work reasons, one of things they miss the most is ham, so it's not surprising that they sometimes want to take it with them to enjoy while away, or any other related product. When considering the option of taking it with them, the question arises: Can ham and other foods be transported when travelling abroad by plane?

The main restrictions on unchecked hand luggage refer to the transport of liquids, creams and gels. It is common knowledge that the maximum amount of liquids that can be taken through the security check is one litre, which must be distributed among containers that contain up to 100 ml each. 

Just like with liquids, there are restrictions for some foods. Here we will share some information regarding the regulations on the subject, so we can know what we can and cannot carry on a plane as part of our carry-on or checked luggage, knowing in advance that the rules are different for travel within the European Union compared to trips to other countries outside of the EU, seeing how, among other reasons, the import or export of food may be prohibited in some destinations for health reasons.
 

Taking ham on an airplane with a foreign destination 

Current regulations are quite strict in this regard. What applies to ham is also applied to other food products such as dairy and other meat products, because the entry of these perishable foods into a country presents the risk of transferring pathogens from the animals, which may be associated with diseases that represent a health threat in the country of destination.  

            a) Travelling to a country in the European Union

When the trip is within countries that are part of the European Union (EU), there is no problem when it comes to transporting the foods you want to take, however if your trip is destined for a country outside of the EU, you will need to review the country's legislation. However, generally speaking, this legislation tends to be restrictive and does not allow for the entry of cheeses, hams or other similar foods. 

Similarly, when traveling to Spain or to another European territory, legislation prevents the entry of this type of food (meat and dairy products) that comes from non-EU countries, in order to protect its population from potential health threats. 

There are some exceptions to this rule. When traveling to an EU country from a non-EU country such as Norway, San Marino, Faroe Islands, etc., small quantities of meat and dairy products are allowed, provided they are for individual consumption and that the food is not being exported for commercialisation. This information is usually found on posters at the different airports. 

According to the provisions of aviation laws, other restrictions that refer to the transport of food in carry-on baggage refer to limitations on the size and weight that are established by each airline, in addition to those rules that are related to the transport of liquids (discussed in the introduction to this topic). 

The specified measurements do not affect products that are purchased in EU airport stores, as long as these stores are located after the security check, or on the aircraft itself, nor do they affect the products that are placed in your checked luggage. 

In conclusion, as a general rule, the introduction of animal products, meat, dairy, etc. is prohibited, except for those cases of private use or other special measurements as described above. 

            b) Travelling to a destination outside of the EU

In the case of trips to destinations outside of the EU, most restrictions prevent you from travelling with ham, sausages and similar foods for the reasons specified in the previous section. Even so, there are many people who vacuum-pack products and place them in their checked luggage, which doesn't usually end up being problematic as long as the quantities are not abused. 

The other option, if you really want to eat ham during your trip, is to buy it at much higher prices in your destination country, where you'll most frequently find Italian Parma ham or Duroc hams, rather than Iberian ham.

When travelling to a country outside of the EU, it is a good idea to consult the legislation in the country of destination. In general, it is not allowed to bring any type of meat product in your carry-on luggage, however you can travel with vacuum-packed products if your suitcase is checked; however, it is always better to check the legislation in order to avoid problems.  

Another recommendation would be to read the website of the embassy of the country you are travelling to, where you will find information on the nation and you can also check if they allow the entry of food products such as ham, cheese or chorizo, and see whether or not there are restrictions that apply. 
 
There are countries like the United States which practically don't allow any food to be taken in. Bringing food to the United States can be a problem, even if the products are allowed. The security controls are so exhaustive that they can look through everything you are bringing, even if the objects or foods are not among their prohibited items. 
 
Additionally, in the United States it is not allowed to bring in meat, not even canned products. On the other hand, you can take in chocolate, nougat, canned fish or even cured cheeses, as long as the total weight does not exceed five kilograms. 

For the specific case of ham and other cured meats, in some countries the entry of this type of product is specifically regulated. In other countries, as is the case of Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and China, it is allowed to bring in this type of food, but Iberian ham is only permitted if it is vacuum packed, cut up or in slices, you can never bring a whole piece. 

The case of Muslim countries is even more delicate, where you cannot introduce any product containing pork, so if one of these countries is your destination, then the ham will have to stay at home. 

Special diets and food transportation

In the case of people with celiac disease, food intolerances or those who travel with children and need to bring pediatric food, it is allowed to transport liquids in your carry-on baggage that will be used during the trip (including the outward flight, your stay and the return flight) due to special dietary needs. 

In these cases, the passenger must take out and show the products; they will have to be examined separately at the security check, with it also being necessary to carry a document that justifies the need to carry these foods, such as a medical certificate where the disease, intolerance or special condition is indicated. 
 
With all of these recommendations, we must make sure to inform ourselves and pay attention to the rules if there is any special food that we can't go without. In any case, the main risk associated with transporting food is that they'll be detected and confiscated before your departure or at your destination. You should take all of this into account in future trips. 

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