HEIDELBERG, Germany -- German law bans many items from being imported into the country. These banned articles could be things you order online or by mail order, or that relatives and friends mail to you.

Counterfeit items, medications, food, guns and endangered species are some of the products banned, no matter whether they are bound for an off-post address or your Army Post Office (APO) post box.

"German and USAREUR postal and customs inspectors conduct random checks at APOs throughout Germany to spot unauthorized items," said Fred Evans, chief of services at the USAREUR Customs Executive Agency.

German customs may seize and destroy any illegal imports and violators will face disciplinary action under German law and U.S. regulations.

Counterfeits of trademarked items are one example of things barred from the mail.

"Trademark violations are the illegal use of signs, names, logos and business names that brand manufacturers use to distinguish their products," Evans explained.

Many producers of DVDs, CDs or designer goods such as purses, shoes or clothing have registered their trademarks with customs who inspect the mail for fake products.

Evans added that people should not buy medications, diet pills or nutritional supplements by mail order because the importation of those items is also forbidden. Even items like vitamins or ginseng in highly measured doses may be subject to restrictions.

A news release from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has more information on this complicated subject and is at www.army.mil/article/97298/German_laws_restrict_mailing_meds.

Food products are also tricky due to animal and plant health regulations.

"Meat or meat products like beef jerky, game or ham are banned from the mail, as are canned meats, soup mixes or pasta containing meat."

Caviar from sturgeon is forbidden due to the endangering of all species of sturgeon. There are further restrictions on potatoes, milk products and eggs.

Firearms and ammunition are also restricted items that should only be mailed to Germany if you have the required German permits. Evans added that some types of paintball guns and air soft rifles available stateside are more powerful than German law allows and so people should consult customs before ordering these kinds of weapons.

Endangered species products are another area of concern.

People buying these products add to the risk of animals and plants becoming extinct and customs can confiscate the goods and fine you. Reptile skins are often used in watchbands, handbags, belts, wallets and shoes.

Most crocodile, lizard, snake, and all sea turtle products are prohibited, too. Customs will also stop ivory and whale teeth decorations (known as scrimshaw and netsuke), as well as many plants such as cacti and orchids.

"Using the APO to import any item for resale, a business or volunteer organization is banned too," Evans stated. "You should also remember that coffee, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are still rationed in Germany and may not be mailed via the APO," he continued.

He explained that if you want to import commercial items or coffee, liqueurs and cigars, you must have them delivered to your German home address and pay any import duty and tax due. If you don't, you are violating the law and U.S. military regulations by evading taxes.

Avoid nasty mailbox surprises and keep prohibited items out of the APO.

Page last updated Tue August 6th, 2013 at 00:00