Are you wondering what food you can’t bring to China?

Compared to some countries that have strict quarantine rules, China is fairly lax when it comes to the food you shouldn’t bring with you.

But there are still some food products you shouldn’t take along. Most of them are fresh and raw foods – common sense kind of things.

If you do happen to have any of the prohibited items with you, just dump them in the quarantine bins at the airport.

So, what food should you not bring to China?

Don’t bring these foods to China

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Dairy including fresh milk, eggs, cheese, butter and cream
  • Fats and oils
  • Animal products including meat and seafood.

In addition, you shouldn’t bring any food that has come from an epidemic stricken area, is harmful to people or might spread disease.

Food you can not bring to China

Don’t bring dairy products to China.

Information about vegetables

China is quite precise about which vegetables are on the banned list. In particular, you can’t bring any solanaceous vegetables with you.

This is a family of vegetables that includes:

  • Potato
  • Tomato
  • Eggplant (Aubergine)
  • Peppers (Capsicum)
  • Chillies.

These particular vegies are prone to pests and diseases. And that’s why the Chinese government doesn’t want them coming in.

Avoid bringing these foods

There are some foods you can bring to China but must be declared. So, unless you have a special reason to bring the following things, I’d advise against it.

Being stuck in the airport after a long-haul flight is not a nice way to start your China vacay!

  • Nuts
  • Dried, pickled and frozen vegetables
  • Cereals and beans (these two require a pre-entry quarantine permit).

It’s important to note that airport quarantine rules are constantly changing. So remember the saying, “If in doubt, throw it out”.

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I find it much less stressful just eating the food served on the plane and leaving anything uneaten on board.

While I can understand that some people have food allergies and may bring their own special things, I can never understand why others bring a feast of food with them.

You can get everything you need in China.

What food can you bring to China?

If you’re wondering what food you can take into China, there are three things to remember.

The food should:

  • Be processed and packaged
  • Be a small amount for personal consumption
  • Not be one of the prohibited items listed above.

The only foods I ever bring into China are highly processed foods like muesli bars, potato chips and chocolate. There are no issues with these sorts of things.

You can bring food like chocolate to China

Processed snack food is fine to take to China.

Grey areas

China is the land of grey areas.

I remember on one trip to central China, my taxi driver ran a red light. I asked him about it, and he said in a very matter-of-fact way, “China has guidelines, not rules”.

I’ve loved this saying ever since!

In China, it’s all about the way a rule is interpreted. One day, it can mean something in particular, while the next day it can mean something totally different.

With regard to the food you can take to China, there are a few grey areas.

For example, something like a can of tuna is technically an animal product, i.e. prohibited.

However, canned tuna is clearly processed, unopened, and isn’t bloody or raw – which is essentially what Chinese Customs are looking for.

So, bringing in a can of tuna probably won’t raise any alarms.

You should not bring animal products into China

Canned fish is an animal product, but there may not be an issue with it.

I personally wouldn’t take the risk though.

A little story to explain: A couple of years ago I was flying out of Guangzhou Airport. I’d bought a really cool game for my nephew in Europe a few weeks earlier.

The game consisted of 20 plastic ping pong balls and a small plastic basketball hoop.

There was a major drama while my carry-on bag was going through the security check. The staff removed the game from my bag, and advised that I couldn’t bring most of it on board.

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Apparently plastic ping pong balls are a flammable risk, but a plastic basketball hoop isn’t!

I was really annoyed – I thought it was such rubbish. But as I’d already checked in my suitcase, there was nothing I could do but relinquish my balls, so to speak.

The point I’m trying to make is rules in China, including those at Chinese airports, are sometimes arbitrary.

The one thing you should do before you head to China

Okay, I know this blog is about the food you shouldn’t take to China.

But if I can leave you with just one more tip, it’s this: make sure you download some helpful apps before you go to China.

A VPN app (like this one) is critical if you want to use Western media while using hotel Wi-Fi in China.

I can’t imaging going without sites and apps like YouTube, Google, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Can you?

Recap of the food you can’t take into China

Avoid bringing any animal products, dairy, fruit, vegetables and nuts. These are the main culprits.

If in doubt, throw it out.

Have a great time in China – you’re going to have a blast!

Did you like my blog? If so, I’ve written one about traveling in China without speaking Chinese. I think you’ll find it useful.

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