Woman Fined $500 for Pocketing Delta Onboard Snack, May Lose Global Entry

When entering the U.S. you need to answer customers questions correctly. If you have any food with you, say so, because if you’re chosen for secondary screening and caught you could be fined — and lose Global Entry privileges if you have them. I’ve warned readers about this before, it’s one of the ways people are losing Global Entry.

Crystal Tadlock was given an apple as a snack on her Delta flight from Paris prior to arrival. She stuck it in her carry on bag figuring she’d eat it on her connecting flight to Denver.

Going through customs she was selected for secondary screening. An agent “pulled out the apple in the plastic bag with Delta’s logo on it.” She asked if she could just “throw it away or eat it,” but it was too late.

“He had asked me if my trip to France was expensive and I said, ‘yeah.’ I didn’t really get why he was asking that question, and then he said ‘It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500,'” said Tadlock to Fox 31.

Tadlock said the innocent mistake could end up costing her bigger than just the $500 fine – she could also lose her Global Entry Status, which allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to have expedited clearance into the U.S.

Tadlock feels Delta shouldn’t have handed the apples out on the flight, or should have reminded customers that they can’t bring undeclared apples into the country. She says she plans to fight the fine in court. Good luck with that.

Delta for their part just says they “encourage our customers to follow U.S. Customs and Border Protection protocols.” Customs and Border Protection says “all agriculture items must be declared.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Honestly, you should be fired from the border patrol for acting like such an asshole toward the people you are welcoming in and/or the taxpayers who pay your salary. Everyone agrees that there are justifiable customs laws. But this “how expensive was your vacation” taunting is ridiculous, and sadly common in the mentality of our border guards. It’s outrageous.

  2. Making a big, public, media fuss about this (and threatening to take it to court, whether she ultimately does so or not) is what’s going to get her GE revoked. And honestly, I think it should. It’s one thing to make a mistake and acknowledge it; quite another to publicly and noisily challenge the validity of the rule and CBP’s authority to fine her for the violation.

  3. I agree with Kevin, the statement by the agent was unnecessary and antagonistic. Agents should be disciplined over such behavior.

  4. She screwed up but wants someone else to shoulder the consequences. As to the customs agent, if he was going to fine her, then silly quips just add insult to injury.

  5. Her GE was going to get revoked because of the food reporting (non-reporting) violation. Making a stink about her failure to follow the CBP rules for food control isn’t the driver behind GE revocation/denial, but the CBP fine is part and parcel of GE denial/revocation.

  6. That’s a ridiculous fine. She clearly wasn’t deliberately lying, it’s not like bringing raw meat in, or live plants.

  7. Meanwhile., I’m the guy who declares everything that is remotely edible (candy, condiments, etc.) out of concern for an overzealous CBP agent having a liberal interpretation of the agricultural definitions (is milk chocolate a “dairy product”?). And of course, every time, I get yelled at “You don’t need to declare that!”. We just can’t win…

  8. Yep, I declare all organic materials including canned goods or anything that was ever alive (cheese), which usually pisses them off as they have to re-screen. I also say if I’ve hiked across a grazing field which gets a free shoe/boot cleaning. Too bad if it causes them some additional work they are not allowed to make decisions just enforce the rules.

  9. I once declared a new t-shirt because I figured the cotton was plant material. CBP not impressed.

  10. You probably could bring in raw me. Buy fruits and vegetables are clearly asked on the form to prevent the spread of deadly non domestic creatures and diseases. Fruit flies etc. ithe clearly was a mistake however it’s the price we pay for being so nonchalant. I would have surely said yes I have an Apple. And they would have said throw it away. However I brought a cake from Germany. Declared it and the agent took it anyway. Did not throw it away. I asked if he wanted some milk with it and the others started to laugh. Sad indeed.

  11. Gary, I think you would be better serving your readers if your headline was: “Don’t Lie at The Global Entry Kiosk — Case # 537” . That would more accurately describe the situation and serve your readers long term interests. Prominently featuring the Delta / lawsuit angle is just cheap opportunistic clickbait.

    But you remain my favorite points and miles blog.

  12. You don’t want to lose your global entry! Landed today (Sunday) around noon at SEA. Huge lines at both immigration and customs. It took no time with global entry; however it took over 40 minutes to get my bag. They stopped putting bags from my flight on the luggage carousel half way through unloading to give priority to a Delta flight from Cancun then continued with my Norwegian flight. Wtf?

  13. As usual, the headline grossly overstates what really happened. You do your readers a real disservice with this clickbait.

  14. Misleading headline. She was fined for filling out her form incorrectly. All she had to do was declare the apple and then she could have either taken it with her or they would have allowed her to throw it away. I always make a point to declare every food item I have in my bag, candy bars, gum, etc. just to play it safe. We brought packaged, dried jerky from Africa. I declared it. They would not let me bring it in. Since I declared it, no big deal. CBP agent told me had I not declared it I faced a fine and loss of global entry. It’s not that hard to follow the rules.

  15. I got caught bringing a tiny bag of airline pretzels into Australia which, I think, bans all food. They seized it from me. I explained that I didn’t bring any food onto the flight, forgot to eat the pretzels, and wasn’t trying to be a criminal.

  16. Headline suggests Delta fined her for stealing … not that they gave her a snack for on board consumption and she decided to try and take it through Customs.

  17. As far as the food question, I ALWAYS mark yes and then explain that it’s this _____ (which is often trivial).

    When going through the USA-Canada land border, I always say first thing …”I have a bag of potato chips (or whatever trivial food I am carrying).” That way, I don’t get distracted and forget to declare something.

  18. I inadvertently brought back a piece of fruit from Mexico last spring. Forgot completely about it. A USDA dog picked it up in baggage claim at IAH. I had to do a secondary. USDA and CBP officers were professional, but firm. Fortunately I received a verbal warning, likely because I took responsibility in a respectful manner. It was not the airline’s fault; it was my fault.

  19. What an idiot this lady is. She should loose global entry. Anyone knows you can’t bring produce into almost any country …. that innocent mistake could have caused an outbreak or something. I know it would t have but these rules are here for a reason , good reason ! Typical idiot blaming someone else for her stupidity…

  20. Nobody was ‘lying” and nobody was an “idiot” – the lady made an honest mistake having forgotten about the apple. This is exactly what happened to me when I picked up a banana from the in flight snack bar thinking I would eat it later and then forgot all about it. Upon arrival, the customs beagle caught me. The Agriculture inspectors made some notes on their forms, but thankfully I was neither fined nor was my GE taken away. Such mistakes are easily made, especially when you are exhausted from long flights. But treating passengers with a ‘gotcha’ attitude is really low.

  21. The wording of the form should be improved to make it clear that fruit, food, etc. must be declared no matter what the source. Like this lady, many probably assume the declaration excludes stuff from the plane (do the airlines declare it?) or packaged food purchased at duty free. If border agents are going to be so picky, a better explanation of what is required should be supplied to all passengers. In the interests of brevity, this crucial info is omitted from the form, and many items that should be declared and inspected come into the country uninspected.

    When I did a lot on NW/DL flying, I often would purchase packaged cheese at Amsterdam Schiphol as gifts and never declared it. I would have been glad to declare it had I known that was required.

    Question: If you have food you acquired in the US did not consume and brought back to the US must that be declared? How many of us travel with a bag of peanuts at the bottom of our backpacks? And what happens to food that is declared?

    I think the lady should contest the fine. Especially if Global Entry is at stake. But if she loses GE, there is always Mobile Passport which is faster than GE at Customs & Immigration anyway.

  22. @CW

    She did lie. She clicked “No”, but had an apple given to her by Delta. Delta shouldn’t be giving out apples. They should be giving out Evian water.

    Really. When Cathay Pacific gives me PYE PJ’s and I keep them, I declare them at a value if $10 and mark it on my form that they were given complimentary by the airline. No problem with C&B after writing that.

    She’s an amateur and a lowlife social justice fool. You’re close too, CW.

  23. @Beachfan, not CW.

    She did lie. She clicked “No”, but had an apple given to her by Delta. Delta shouldn’t be giving out apples. They should be giving out Evian water.

    Really. When Cathay Pacific gives me PYE PJ’s and I keep them, I declare them at a value if $10 and mark it on my form that they were given complimentary by the airline. No problem with C&B after writing that.

    She’s an amateur and a lowlife social justice fool. You’re close too, Beachfan

  24. Another perfect example of why government is both stupid and evil. For gosh sakes, an apple.

  25. 21st century… How about checking the luggage before it leaves the host country? What if the plane crashes with all of the hazard ous contents and fruit flies invade some big town. If it’s checked before you leave, then we don’t have to worry about it. And that $500 fine in a foreign currency may only be $10 US equivalent.

  26. Customs and Border Protection are abundantly clear about what must be declared, and about the penalties for non-declaration. I hope the government is awarded court costs when this nuisance suit is inevitably thrown out. There is no excuse for making a false declaration, period. It’s not hard, folks.

  27. I think the customs form wording is something like, “Are you bringing any fruit or plant material into the country?”

    The Apple was from an American carrier, and given to her in “no-man’s land”, so to speak. It isn’t unreasonable to expect that some would assume that an Apple given by an American carrier when not in any foreign country per se doesn’t count.

    Too often officers focus on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. $500 cannot be justified given a lack of intent. Part of the reason why the lady went public was because of the taunt.

  28. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Revoke her GE. And send her back to high school. Perhaps she should retake her high school comprehensive English courses again.

  29. I was not even allowed to bring an apple from New York to Hawaii. Apples contain living seeds, which could be very dangerous to the local species.

  30. I think too many people on this thread are focusing too much on the biologicals in that question. Please note the the catch all term “FOOD” is one of the words in the question. Out of an abundance of caution (since following Gary’s blog and hearing about Global Entry revocations), we ALWAYS ANSWER YES TO THIS QUESTION. I mean, I usually carry Cold-EEze lozenges with me, individual tea bags, and some Starbucks Via packets. Is that food? And there’s no remembering if I have a piece of candy or snack bar somewhere in my luggage or backpack. So I always say YES, and explain. From the way the question is worded, it really sounds like they are trying to find out if you have raw, uncooked, biological stuff to protect the US from foreign invasion, but FOOD includes the cooked stuff, so we check YES all the time, then explain what it is when we get to the agent.

  31. An apple could be rotten and have maggots inside. Rules are rules. I’m from Australia where our quarantine laws are incredibly strict. Just one bug from outside Australia could destroy an entire season of crops. Blaming Delta for this? Hilarious.

    And the screening agent’s alleged comment “It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500,’” has been recounted by the traveller. Who’s to say it’s an accurate account of what was said? Maybe the agent said something like “Sorry but the fine is $500 which is probably almost what you spent on your vacation”, and the traveller has recounted it in a different way partly through the memory she’s created of this in such an angry situation. It’s amazing what people will swear on their life was said, and when you listen to a recording, it’s completely different.

  32. Nice clickbait headline – makes it sound like she was fined $500 for taking the apple from the plane.

  33. Everyone is hung up on the fact that apples could bring in diseases part of this post, because that makes sense to us. It would seem that processed food should not be a problem. However, the question is FOOD, – all food and that includes chocolates and candies. Do a Google search to see how many people have lost their Global Entry privileges because they did not declare a piece of chocolate or candy. Seems ridiculous, but that is the law, and it would be a damn shame to lose Global Entry over one piece of chocolate (like the wrapped piece Delta passes out to Delta One customers on final approach). DECLARE ALL FOOD, not just the biologicals, agricultural, or raw stuff that you think is what they are asking about. They are asking about ALL FOOD (defined as if you can eat it, IT”S FOOD.)

  34. Why are we giving this person any attention? She deserves the fine, she deserves the revocation of GE.

    The form is clear – declare it.

    And to anyone who is taking her account of what the agent said to her at face value – I’d not be so quick to do that, considering she is trying to blame Delta, I wouldn’t be surprised if her recounting of the interactions with the agent are twisted. She’s not exactly standing up for personal responsibility here..

  35. @ John Not sure anyone answered your question, but YES you must declare any food brought across the border even if you acquired it in the US. I strongly suggest you keep the label on it. For example, you can generally bring (most) fruit and vegetables across the US/Canadian border so long as it is clearly labeled as grown in the US or Canada. The declaration really takes a minute if it’s something as simple as a snack that still has its sticker/label. You can look up what foods are admissible from different countries, but in general dried/processed/sealed foods are allowed in. A bag of peanuts “Made in the US” and sealed should be declared, but wouldn’t be seized.

    It’s a shame she’ll probably lose her GE over a mistake like this, but the form and instructions are pretty clear: declare all food and if you get caught not declaring, you’re no longer seen as a “low-risk” traveler.

  36. It’s interesting that the comments appear evenly divided.

    I once was inbound on a flight to Denver when the pilot announced… “Your long day just got a little longer” as the backup into DIA requires us to divert to ALQ for gas. I didn’t consider this to be a smart-ass comment… just stating a fact.

  37. Government employees with power over us, especially low-level ones like TSA screeners, should NEVER EVER be spewing attitude toward the people who pay their salaries.

    If I ran things, that would be an immediate firing offense.

    You wonder why so many folks utterly hate the government and its employees? Crap like this is part of why.

  38. It befuddles me as to why the GE question re food (which essentially covers any and all food, even if clearly permitted) is different than the Mobile Passport question (which, if I recall correctly, asks only if you have any fruits or vegetables).

  39. I once had a banana I had forgotten about in my checked luggage from the Philippines when going thru Immigration in Chicago (ORD) a while back. It was still wrapped in the plastic baggie and price marked from the grocery store. One banana. A beagle dog sniffed it out. The officer asked me if I had anything and I replied I didn’t think so. Then when I opened my bag I remembered the banana. I told him he had a smart pooch.

    I asked if I could eat the banana and he said yes, but he wanted the peel and the baggie it came in. Philippine bananas are rather small compared to our South American varieties we are used to. So it was no trouble eating it, maybe 3 bites. He marked my litttle kiosk sheet and I had to go through extra screening. No further problems…… and no fine or anything like that.

  40. I’m surprised no one has mentioned this, but the reason people lose their Global Entry status over such infractions is because the entire “Trusted Traveler” system is based on the notion that the privileged person travels often and will stay educated on proper procedures (and thus the government will assume you’re following the rules on your word alone). This means that if they discover, on a random screening, that you aren’t following the basic rules then the punishment will be swift and harsh. If you demonstrate that you’re not able to stay on top of technicalities and procedures, then they will deem you aren’t trustworthy enough to forego the normal level of screening.

    It makes some sense, if you think about it. It seems everyone who thinks “it’s just an apple” has an attitude like we’re in high school and we’re being graded on some test, and they think a B+ will do.

  41. Was stopped in DEN coming back from LHR with sealed pack of beef jerky from the USA that sat in the bottom of my bag for the entire trip. Luckily they took pity on me and gave me a verbal warning as I had no idea that even sealed food from the US must be declared.

  42. @Storm – this is part of the issue. The language on the GE kiosks has changed over the years and has NOT always been consistent with the language on printed customs forms. The language within GE materials is not even internally consistent; see below for a link to the “Global Entry Info Guide” which gives a list of things that must be declared and does not use the blanket “food” language (the pax in this story still would have known that an apple isn’t allowed, however).


  43. This was a good reminder for me. And I’m surprised by the harsh comments here. Do you guys always remember what you have, especially when traveling sometimes for days? Heck I forget about those little Delta water bottles half the time and TSA finds them… I might also be complacent because I live in Hawaii and am always declaring stuff like ginger and apples and they say they don’t care. Does the form say fruits or vegetables, or any food? If any food, what about energy bars? I’ve often got those buried in my purse or backpack and don’t even know it.

  44. I travel international I always declare food even when its chips & chocolate and sweets. If she’s a frequent traveler she should have known not to put it in her bag the customs form is pretty implicit or does she not consider a apple a piece of fruit.

  45. @CW, THANKS. No consistency, but if the GE booklet doesn’t say food, but the GE kiosk does say food, and you have a candy bar, and you say no because you think you know the rules (and intent of the question from the booklet, i.e. not to bring in germs, etc to the US), you have lied on the GE kiosk. They should get their act together.

  46. Good article, so glad I didn’t miss it with the mos leading headline. Pertinent information for me, thank you.

  47. Coming home to JFK from Austria I had a small bag of dry dog food with me; my dog was traveling with me and I knew I had no food at home for her when we got there. I was surprised the agent singled it out for disposal. She pointed out that there was mad cow disease — which seemed absurd because (1) it was dry, processed food and (2) Europe has far less mad cow disease than we do. I was surprised, but wasn’t about to argue with her. When she heard I had no dog food at home, however, she let me keep it. I didn’t, and still don’t, understand (1) why she wanted to throw it out and (2) why she let me keep it, if it was really a forbidden item!

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