A lot of travelers want to bring mushrooms from Italy, China, and other countries back home. That’s because the food culture there involves many different varieties of mushrooms that aren’t available in the US. And even though generally, they’re allowed, you could get into trouble if you won’t follow the basic principles for traveling with mushrooms.
TSA Rules on Flying With Mushrooms
The TSA (Transport Security Agency) doesn’t have any rules for traveling with mushrooms. But when traveling between different states or when returning from other countries, some restrictions are enforced by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), other known as Customs and Immigration.
Fresh and dried mushrooms intended for eating are allowed in hand and checked baggage without any restrictions. All mushrooms must be free of any soil, plant, insects, woodchips, water, and diseases. There aren’t any quantity or packing restrictions, but all mushrooms need to be inspected when going through security.
Traveling with mushrooms of unknown species (where the packaging doesn’t state its name or there isn’t any packaging) requires a PPQ 526 permit to be transported. It’s to make sure that they aren’t a pest in that state. You must apply for this permit before traveling.
Ground mushroom powders should be packed in checked baggage whenever possible. In hand luggage, they’re restricted to 12 oz (350 g) containers or smaller.
Flying With Mushrooms Internationally
Dried, dehydrated, cooked, or commercially packaged mushrooms are allowed on planes nearly all across the world, without any packing restrictions.
Only fresh and non-commercially packaged ones are restricted. And the restrictions vary between different countries, based on the species of the fungus. To enter Europe and the UK, you’ll need to get a plant health certificate. New Zealand has banned truffles and other mushrooms that aren’t native to the country. Other countries may include other restrictions.
Due to these restrictions, we would only recommend traveling internationally with dried, commercially sealed mushrooms.
Which Mushroom Varieties Are Allowed
Popular mushroom varieties are generally allowed to travel with to most countries, even in a fresh form. These include button, portobello, porcini, shiitake, cremini, oyster, chanterelle, and morel mushrooms.
Truffles are usually allowed, but not always. For example, New Zealand prohibits traveling with any variety of truffles. Other countries allow the most popular varieties, including Italian white, muscat, Oregon, Burgundy, and winter black truffles.
Mushroom species that aren’t native to the country that you’re flying to are usually banned from entering the country. To find out which varieties are allowed, check each country’s Customs and Immigration rules for fungi.
How to Pack Mushrooms in Your Luggage
We recommend packing mushrooms in your hand luggage. When going through security, they’ll most likely need to be inspected by the security agent. So pack them somewhere accessible, so that it’s easy to take them out if needed.
Also, always remember to keep the packaging of the mushrooms and only travel with unopened ones.
Can the TSA Detect Mushrooms?
US customs require passengers to show mushrooms for inspection. But if you forget to do that and leave them somewhere in your bag, you won’t get into trouble – they’ll just ask some questions.
The airport security can’t identify mushrooms with their scanners. So most likely, they won’t ask you any questions, unless they do a physical search.
But remember that some species of mushrooms are illegal. This includes some species of truffles, which you could unknowingly forage during your vacation. If the TSA finds them in your possession, they’ll contact the local authorities and you’ll get into trouble. So avoid traveling with unmarked, foraged mushrooms.
Summing Up: Traveling With Mushrooms
Dried mushrooms from China or Italy intended for cooking in a commercially sealed package are completely safe to travel with. When I returned from my vacation in China, nobody asked me any questions about the 1 kg of dried mushrooms in my bag.
But if you’re planning on traveling with fresh mushrooms (even popular varieties intended for eating) be prepared to discard them. That’s because a lot of countries require certificates or forms when entering with live plants. Still, you can try your luck if you’re completely sure that this variety isn’t illegal.