Having turkey for Christmas? Don’t cross border with leftovers, CBSA warns

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As Canadians gear up for Christmas and turkey dinners, Canada’s border agency has an important reminder for people travelling down south this holiday season: don’t bring back any leftover turkey into the country.

The Canada Border Services Agency said in a news release on Dec. 13 that all poultry products being brought into the country must be retail packaged, for human consumption, and labelled as a “Product of the USA.”

“Homemade food or leftovers containing poultry cannot be brought into Canada,” CBSA said.

Other restricted poultry items include restaurant food, poultry products and byproducts from roadside stands or farms and poultry items from backyard flocks.

Any meat items, including poultry, are also not allowed to enter Canada by mail or courier, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

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Avian flu raises concerns of another Christmas turkey shortage

What is allowed?

However, retail packaged and labelled products like eggs, deli meat, frozen whole turkeys and chickens, frozen chicken strips or wings and vacuum-packed flats of raw chicken breasts and thighs are permitted.

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Live pet birds with official certification and carcasses of hunted wild game birds are allowed to cross the border from the U.S.

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Pet food containing avian ingredients that is cooked or canned can also be imported as long as the pet is with the traveller, CFIA guidelines state. But raw pet food is banned for importation.

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Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, a total of 1,613 penalties were issued for food, plant and animal import violations, totalling $1,301,600 in penalties, CBSA statistics for 2023 show.

Global News asked the CBSA about the number of confiscations related specifically to poultry last year and the penalties, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Canada has placed restrictions on imports of some poultry products or byproducts from U.S. states affected by a bird flu outbreak.

But as of March 15 this year, some poultry products bought from grocery stores are allowed for import from any U.S. state – regardless of whether there is an avian outbreak there.

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The holiday season is typically a busy time at the U.S.-Canada border and this winter is not expected to be any different, with travel volume already surging by almost 50 per cent in 2023.

As of Oct. 31, almost 73.7 million travellers have crossed the border by air, road, rail and sea this year, according to the CBSA.

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