What Food are Allowed to be Brought Back from Abroad

Every Singaporean knows 'custom very strict' and every one has their misconceptions of what is or isn't allowed to be imported in. Bear in mind, I used the word 'import' loosely here. I meant to say bringing back food stuff from our overseas trips instead of full fledged commercial importing (which is a different set of restrictions) So, this link provided by Mrs Liew was really useful for me and I would share it with you today. That should officially mark the end of the "Egg can, egg cannot. Meat can, meat cannot" confusing debates among us and set things right from now.

First things first, that's the [link] All we need to remember is to declare what we are bringing for custom inspection. No exceptions even if the items are allowed or risk watching your food going into the bin or other possible annoying events you would prefer not to encounter after an enjoyable overseas trip. I believe the link provided is conclusive but I'll highlight some items of my own interests.

1. Uncanned meats (includes vacuum sealed items) are not allowed into Australia unless accompanied by an import permit.

Even vacuum sealed meat items are not allowed. That probably explain why folks gave me the hairdryer treatment when I suggested bringing Bak Kwa in. "NOT ALLOWED!!" What a scream. But read on the requirements under jerky.

  • An import permit is not required for jerky/biltong intended for human consumption only, provided the product is:
  • Shelf stable
  • Commercially prepared and packaged
  • Imported in an amount up to 1 kilogram
  • For the personal consumption of the person wishing to import it.
  • Meat jerky/biltong (other than from avian meat) must be manufactured in one of the countries specified on the Department of Agriculture FMD Approved Country List.
Isn't Bak Kwa jerky? I shouldn't be asking this. It is a fucking jerky. So instead of the traditional box + paper wrapped pack, we have to request for a vacuum seal in a nice commercial bag if we want to bring it back. Who says we cannot bring Bak Kwa in? A casual check suggested Singapore is under one of the approved manufactured countries so just make sure your Bak Kwa is from Singapore and not Malaysia. If it doesn't show "Manufactured in Singapore" on the vacuum pack, the bin will eat up your Bak Kwa at the customs. Limit weight is 1kg. So don't go overzealous. Remember to tell the customs officer the proper terms. Meat = bin. Bak Kwa = bin. Jerky = looks great, can I have some?

Tell you what, I'll attempt to bring some in after CNY and put the money where my mouth is. Stay tuned and see if you'll see my smug face or sorry ass at the end of Summer.

2. Dried, ground spices and spice mixes weighing no greater than 1 kilogram are allowed into Australia

So long they have labels, packaged properly blah blah. So, I can bring in my emperor chicken herbs and bak kut teh spices etc. But wait, when they stated the 1 kilogram limit, do they meant the total weight of ALL spice types or is that the limit per spice? I believe it is for the total, else it will be too good to be true. I'll check with the customs officer when he inspects my stuff. As most spices are generally lightweight, 1kg is adequate for combination of spices.

3. Tea and dried herbs are allowed into Australia

So is Rosemary a herb or a spice? Heh heh. No I am not thinking about bringing that in. We have loads in the strata yard that nobody is even interested in harvesting. Speaking about that, there is a story about that I may want to share. It is good that I can label Xia Ku Cao and Chrysanthemum as a herb and not spice. Another 1kg of herbs allowable.

4. Coffee/Coffee Beans are allowed into Australia

Another 1kg limit but all products must be roasted. I'm no coffee drinker but the Missus may be interested.

5. The Mooncake mystery

I distinctively remember I was told that Mooncakes with yolks are not allowed into Australia. I believe most of us thought so too. However, after reading the requirements under both Confectionery and Cakes a few times, I did not find any hint that suggest we cannot bring in Mooncakes with yolks. Read these:


Confectionery (excluding Indian milk-based desserts and sweets) is allowed into Australia. Confectionery includes chocolate, fudge, toffees, boiled sweets, peppermints, marshmallows and liquorice etc. It does not include liquid dairy desserts, spreads or drinks, which are covered under the Dairy items heading.

Cakes, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, biscuits and bread

Cooked cake, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, biscuits and bread is allowed into Australia if any nuts and fruit are baked into the product and not applied raw afterwards.
Import conditions for cooked cakes containing custard and/or dairy fillings that have not been cooked with the cake (for example cheesecakes, dairy puddings or vanilla slices) are covered under the Dairy items heading.

I think a Mooncake falls under the description of confectionery instead of cakes, since lotus paste, for example, is a form of toffee. It was specifically stated so long the ingredients are cooked with the main product (in the website they gave nuts and fruits as example) and not applied raw afterwards, it is allowed. As far as I know, yolks are baked dead with traditional mooncakes, why wouldn't it be allowed? Bear in mind, "Snow skin" mooncakes are not baked so any yolks in its paste you will not be able to justify to the custom officer it passes the requirement.

Also, think about it. Eggs are used plentifully during the process of cake baking. If cooked beaten eggs (in cakes) are allowed, is there a reason cooked unbeatened eggs in Mooncakes are not allowed? That have been bugging my mind whenever someone says mooncakes with yolks are not allowed into Australia but a Christmas cake is. 

As I am not a Mooncake person so I will not be bringing them in. Why don't you try and let me know?


  1. This is a revised version. Last time Bah Kwa and Mooncake with Egg Yolk are really not allowed into Perth. I've called the Dept of Agriculture to confirm this before.

    1. Can you call them again to confirm we can do so now :>)

    2. If you help me bring back bah kwa & kueh lapis :d then I'll call them for you. :-) :p

    3. why is everyone eyeing on kueh lapis? Kueh lapis is a cake, of course can bring back.

    4. Lol... Kueh lapis is very nice mah... Ai ya of cos I know kueh lapis can bring back cos I've brought that back many times Liao... In fact a lot of things can be brought into Perth. That kueh lapis is a motivation for me to call dept of agriculture for u mah. :)

    5. My first trip to Sydney in 1998. Custom Officer cut open every mooncake I have.. got yolk, into bin.. No yolk, I can keep. But cannot give people already.. so I eat it all in hotel.. Anyway, but that time about 60% of the moon cake already binned... So I ate mooncakes for supper in hotel for 2 weeks.. lol..

    6. :-) Singapore Calamari, these days they just poke the back of the mooncake to check for traces of eggs so that the mooncake still look ok on top. Guess they realized Asians like to bring mooncakes back as gifts.

    7. @babe: call, call.
      @Singapore Calamari: 2 weeks of mooncakes! You may not like mooncake so much these days i guess

    8. Sorry but I must not be a mooncake connoisseur and can anyone tell me for sure that nowadays mooncake from SG is better than the HK/CN variety they sell in Australia?

    9. @ Babe with the Lapis Importer Experience

      Got any idea where/which brand to buy Kueh Lapis that look OK in packaging (or even in foil)?

    10. Just called and checked with airport quarantine, they don't want to commit if bah kwa is allowed into Perth until they see it. They kept insisting that we read their latest updates and see if their jerky description fits our bah kwa. So folks enter at your own risk.

      Anyway I did look up wiki and it did say that bah kwa is similar to jerky and the process is pretty similar to the beef jerky we get here except that we add more ingredients to bah kwa that's why it taste nicer. :)

      As for mooncakes with egg yolks, they are now allowed into Perth! Hooray! (h)

    11. IT IS JERKY. faint. Jerky means dried meat. Which part of the name 肉干 does not that imply it isn't dried. Alamak!

    12. Lol... It's based on their discretion lor... You know how the people here works right? Some will say ok and some will say no to the same thing. Boh standard one lor... Who's more outspoken who wins... :d

    13. I am not outspoken at all but I'll show them documentations that specialist define Bak Kwa as a type of jerky, such as this: http://jerkyonline.org/types-of-jerky/

    14. Maybe you should send an email and asked them. Attached a photo and definition of bak kwa cos when I talked to the lady she said she need to see the product and see the ingredients before she can give me an answer. :-b Not helpful lor...

  2. Nix,

    When is your flight coming back from SG after 2014 CNY?

    The only thing the great city of Sydney (the most Chinese Australian capital) don't have wan is Bah Kwa, the only shop that sells it in Chinatown supposed to close for the last 5 years (hardly goto Chinatown so dunno anymore) and all I can do is go underground to buy home-made BK but never the same as the SG BK.

    I really wan to know can pass custom this time so you must post ASAP after coming back regarding BK.

    I don't really care about the other foodstuff since:

    1. Depending where you live, some spices really not worth bringing in since Chinese-run Asian Food store often can bring in China-based spices (which really almost includes everything) and Malaysian-based combination spices as cheap as buying in SG then bring over. Even in Sydney you just need to know where to buy (can be as much as 50% difference in prices)

    2. Many brands of Ipoh Coffee 3 in 1 can bring in also but why bother since each $3- 5 pack can weigh close to 600g (Australia $5 - 7 in Asian shop) already so boh-hwa (not worth it) buying low value stuff and use up your baggage allowance so quickly unless nothing to bring back.

    3. Mooncake can be so damn cheap $10 - 15 per box as long as you don't go for some crazy hongkong deluxe model lah. Some more how much can you eat mooncake before you get sick of it, sometime the 4- piece box take one whole month to disappear.

    The only other thing that is hard to find is Lapis legit (cannot import cake with egg in it), so if someone can tell me how to get it in Australia, preferably Sydney let me know. Or if someone can confirm now can bring in, then I go get it at Bengawan Solo next time!

    1. I can't rem my flight date. 1. I'll check the price. Things are not cheap in WA these days. 2. No comment, not a coffee lover and not aware of its pricing too. 3. Not a mooncake fan. Let's try out something this time round and see how it goes

    2. There is Bak Kwa in Sydney's Chinatown. There's bak kwa bbq-ed on the spot at Chinatown's weekly Friday street market too.

    3. Thanks for confirming. Often the few times t pass by always closed so I tot closed down already. I think they sell about $ 40-50 per kg...

  3. Mooncake is still a No No in Perth airport. They trust the labels and won't cut them open nowadays. However, you need to declare! I don't think bak kway is possible- similar with pork floss. However, fish floss is OK, brought in many times.

    1. Meat Floss

      An import permit is not required for meat floss, provided that the product is:

      -For the personal use of the importer
      -Commercially manufactured
      -Imported in an amount up to 2 kilograms
      -Very finely shredded.

      The product may be inspected on arrival to ensure compliance with the above conditions.


      Lifted straight off the custom website. So pork is not meat but fish is? I'm confused

    2. You are righy based on the daff. Will kar kar bring next time. Bee Cheng hiang here i come. Guys, remember you can get them from Changi Airport to save on GST

  4. I've brought back lots of chinese tea (and ginseng tea) before with no problem. Even kopi lewak (in plain aluminium packaging with no label).

    The one thing that I want to try bringing back badly is BAK KWA! =p~

  5. The reason why I want to know exactly which one can bring in so that I can pass custom swee-swee and not stand there for even another 15 minutes.

    Sydney Airport has one of the worse baggage handler service such that you can be the ONLY international flight landing in the whole terminal for the hour and it still takes 45 mins since landing for the FIRST bag to come out (can take another 20 minutes before the whole plane's baggage is on the belt!

    1. I'll be printing a copy of the list from the custom website with me. I shared this post because there are too many assumptions and too little facts. Read the custom website carefully. It only takes 5 minutes but it should clear a lot of doubts

  6. In 2011, my one box of vacuum packed BCH Bak Kwa was confiscated at Custom. In 2013 October, I filled in the food declaration custom form diligently and expected a thorough search through my goodies, but surprisingly, I was allowed to walk through custom without a search. I usually bring back lots of Chinese herbs and dried shrimps + Ikan bilis. Fish floss.. Sure can. Chinese herbs, usually no problem, except for any tree bark origins and sliced ginseng not allowed. Powdered American ginseng... Can.

    1. !!!! Hope I will make it in 2014

    2. if u know how to pack, ish can siam the machine scan :-)

      go make a friend who used to work in custom related service say NS. I got my baggage pack by a frd who used to work in army customs. he share that there are many black spots in baggage scanning which is why in army camp entrance, manpower is require to fumble the bags at times

  7. Bak kwa cfm cannot. they do not considered it as jerky FYI. I did that done that failed that.

    even seal with bee jin hiang brand and so on! Mooncake so long your box state that it is eggless, and unopen pack. they can easily get a chinese custom officer to read the words off the mooncake.

    I have very expensive taste, so to me, i can tell a difference with cheap and proper expensive moon cake :shy:

    1. I.S. - You are in SYD isn't it? You reckon the custom there is more strict? Just called airport quarantine and they said mooncake with egg ok leh. When did you bring in the mooncake? Last year? Maybe their list not updated yet?

  8. Dunch tell chiu where i am =P

    depends alot on the supervisor in duty. As far as i am concern, i wun bring that in rah. too dramatic experience. moreover, Mooncake is seriously health damaging food

  9. Yeah, this is the revised requirements. It wasn't always so, I've lived in Australia (Melbourne) for almost 5 years and back then the "no egg" rule was in effect.

    I remember back in 1993 when I first went over (for a vacation) bak kut teh wasn't allowed too. They were suspicious of the black paste so each packet was opened and the sealed black paste taken out and resealed with the "Opened for inspection by Customs" tape.

    I guess they suspected it was black tar heroin, this was before reagent testing. :))