If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you’ll have a lot to be excited about!
You may also feel a little nervous about our strict biosecurity laws – particularly when it comes to food.
As an isolated island nation, we are proud of our unique landscapes, wildlife and culture. This isolation also means that we’re free from many of the nasty diseases, plants and pests that other countries have… and we’re committed to keeping it that way.
New Zealand’s native species of plants and animals evolved for millions of years almost totally isolated from the rest of the world. They evolved before there were land-based mammals. Our remaining eco-systems are vulnerable to the introduction of diseases, insects, reptiles, mammals and birds from overseas. Our border staff will prevent any risky things being brought in. It doesn’t matter that they are common where you come from.Colin Feslier, NZTT member
We’re so dedicated to stopping nasties get through, we even have a TV programme dedicated to sharing border patrol stories. We kid you not!
So, what food can you bring into New Zealand?
What will customs prevent you from transporting?
Planning your first visit to New Zealand? Check out these must-read articles:
The Impact of a Biosecurity Breach in New Zealand
While the biosecurity laws in NZ may seem strict (and it may be tempting to look for ways to cut time spent in customs when arriving), the impacts of doing so could be felt for decades to come.
Enjoy your steak while out for dinner? The $10 billion red meat industry would be decimated by the introduction of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in New Zealand.
What about a nice cappuccino or milkshake? Or some of the delicious cheeses made across the country? FMD affects all cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo and more.
Eggs Benedict for breaky in the morning? The introduction of avian influenza or Newcastle Disease could cause mass destruction our $300 million egg and poultry industry.
Would you like to enjoy a glass of wine overlooking our snow-capped mountains or beautiful beaches at the end of a day’s exploration? Flavescence dorée, a phytoplasma that can be introduced through infected plant material or insects, would cause a drastic reduction in the quality and quantity of grapes produced here, having a serious impact on our wineries.
Not only would animals and plants be impacted by a biosecurity incursion, but countless people would be too.
From farmers and growers who would lose their livelihood to biosecurity staff who would be responsible for euthanising animals that are at risk or infected, life would change quickly for many. Prices would climb in the supermarket, as, for a period of time, we would become reliant on imports.
The impact of a significant biosecurity breach could be significant and long-lasting. So, let’s do our very best to avoid one…
Entering New Zealand – What Food Is and Isn’t Allowed?
Join us as we share details about the most common food items that are and are not allowed into Aotearoa.
For more detailed information, or to check more obscure foods and ingredients, we suggest using the customs tool. This is provided by the Ministry for Primary Industries; they’re the ones you’ll be meeting at the border
Filling in Your NZ Arrival Card
When you arrive into New Zealand, you will be given an arrival card on the plane. All people entering Aotearoa, including citizens, must complete this.
The card will ask you to declare any of the following:
- Food – cooked, uncooked, fresh, preserved, packaged or dried.
- Animals or animal products – meat, dairy products, fish, honey, bee products, eggs, feathers, shells, raw wool, skins, bones or insects.
- Plants or plant products – fruit, flowers, seeds, bulbs, wood, bark, leaves, nuts, vegetables, parts of plants, fungi, cane, bamboo or straw, including for religious offerings or medicinal use.
- Other biosecurity risk items – including animal medicines, herbal medicines, biological cultures, organisms, soil or water.
- Equipment used with animals, plants or water – including for gardening, beekeeping, fishing, water sport or diving activities.
- Items that have been used for outdoor or farming activities – including any footwear, tents, camping, hunting, hiking, golf or sports equipment.
Simply carrying something on this list is not necessarily a problem. Failing to declare it, however, is an issue. Failure to declare any of the above items can result in a $400 fine – even if it’s an accident.
Some of these items are actually allowed into New Zealand, while others are not.
Either way, declare, declare, declare.
With that in mind, let’s find out exactly what food is allowed into Aotearoa and what is not…
Bringing Food into New Zealand – The Rules You Need to Know
Though you need to declare all food products when entering New Zealand, it is actually a misconception that food is not allowed in.
Some foods are allowed without incident. First though, let’s look at the food that is not allowed into NZ.
Food Items That Are NOT Allowed
The following foods are not allowed into New Zealand. If you have them on you at the airport, we recommend putting them into the amnesty bins before customs.
- Fresh foods:
- some meat (including pork)
- some fish and seafood (trout, char and pāua)
- Jackfruit, breadfruit and monk fruit, even if it has been processed
- Whole fresh coconuts
- Whole seeds for sprouting legumes and beans
- Fresh vanilla pods
- Baked goods that contain:
- fresh fruit toppings
- raw nut toppings
- meat filling
- dairy filling
- fresh fruit/vegetable filling
- Pasta salad
- Whole barley seed, oat seed, rye seed or wheat seed.
If you want to take them to a customs officer to be double-checked, declare that you are carrying them on your arrival card.
Remember, having these foods on you as you approach the customs desk is not a problem as long as you have declared them honestly. The customs team will check if you are allowed to carry these items into New Zealand and will act accordingly.
Food Items That Are Allowed into New Zealand
Many people are surprised to find that a number of food products are indeed allowed into Aotearoa – just be sure to declare them so the customs officer is aware of what you’re carrying.
These foods are allowed through NZ customs:
- Baked goods (including biscuits and cakes), unless they contain the fillings stated above.
- Potato chips, corn chips etc.
- Sweets (including chocolate, candies/lollies/sweets, nougat and marzipan), as long as it does not contain liquid honey, loose fresh fruit, loose raw seeds, citrus peel (not candied) or meat.
- Nut bars, protein bars and seed bars.
- Home-made meals (including curries, sandwiches and home-dehydrated food) as long as it doesn’t contain meat, jackfruit, breadfruit, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables or honey.
- Some meat (including beef, lamb, mutton, goat, venison, kangaroo, possum and rabbit), as long as it is commercially manufactured and packaged, and stored in original unopened packaging that displays the country of origin.
- Most fish and seafood, with surprisingly few limitations.
- Fish must be dead and distinguishable.
- Anchovies and anchovy-like fish must be dried.
- Salmon must be commercially packaged, headed, gilled and gutted.
- Shellfish must be shelled and cooked, dried, or frozen.
- Crustaceans (including crayfish and prawns) must be dead.
- Butter, cheese, yoghurt, milk powder and formula are all allowed, as long as they do not contain fruit.
- Dried or processed fruit and vegetables (including sultanas, raisins, dried apricots and jams).
- Grated coconut.
- Honey if it was commercially manufactured and packaged in New Zealand, and in its original unopened packaging.
- Dried mushroom, if it is dried, freeze-dried, dehydrated, frozen or cooked.
- Nuts (including almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, walnuts and peanut butter), as long as they are commercially manufactured and packaged, and generally without shells.
- Seeds for eating (including sesame, pumpkin and most poppy seeds).
- Pasta (dried and fresh)
- Cereals (including commercially packaged breakfast cereal, rice, rolled oats and quinoa)
- Sauces (including barbecue, tomato and mayonnaise)
- Herbs and spices, as long as they are dried and ground, commercially manufactured and packaged. If they are unground, they must also be in original unopened packaging.
- Vanilla extract, essence, paste or dried pods.
- Tea, as long as it is dried, commercially manufactured and packaged.
- Coffee and cocoa.
- Soda and fruit juice
- Plant-based milk
Why Not Buy Local?
Though it’s possible to bring quite a bit of food from home, we also have very well-stocked supermarkets.
Rather than lugging heaps of food with you, we suggest bringing some of your favourite snacks and tastes of home, while doing most of your grocery shopping here.
It’s always more fun to explore local flavours!
If in Doubt, Declare It
Declare all food on your arrival card, even if you know you’re allowed to bring it in.
We always find the customs officers to be approachable when the time comes to discuss what you’ve ticked off – and if you’ve ticked ‘yes’ to items that aren’t actually a risk (like chocolate), they’ll let you pass on through.
Mistakenly having something you shouldn’t have is not a big deal, as long as you declare that you have it.
It’s when you don’t declare something that you’ll run into trouble.
Pro Tip: Please don’t try to trick the customs officers – nobody wants to be that person, and you’ll likely get found out. On arrival into NZ, your bags will probably be sniffed by detector dogs, x-rayed or physically searched.
Pack Smart and Enjoy Your Travels in New Zealand
Though the idea of packing to come to New Zealand causes anxiety for some, there really isn’t any need to be worried.
Familiarise yourself with what is (and more importantly, isn’t) allowed into Aotearoa, do your best to follow these guidelines and declare everything – whether or not it’s on the do-carry list.