The U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) recently announced that agriculture specialists assigned to the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport in California intercepted 19,555 lb. of prohibited pork, chicken, beef and duck products arriving from China over the span of just a few weeks.
Most of the unmanifested animal products were commingled in boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tablets, trash bags, swim fins, cell phone covers, plastic cases and household goods in a clear attempt to smuggle the prohibited meats, CBP said.
From April 6 to June 6, CBP agriculture specialists identified, examined and seized 12 shipments containing a total of 834 cartons that lacked the required U.S. Department of Agriculture entry documentation.
“Our close collaboration with our USDA strategic partners has resulted in an increased number of prohibited food product interceptions in a relatively short period of time,” said Carlos Martel, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles. “CBP agriculture specialists remain committed and vigilant of foreign animal disease threats.”
According to USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, China is affected by African swine fever (ASF), classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, foot and mouth disease, highly pathogenic avian influenza and swine vesicular disease.
CBP said pork products from ASF-affected countries may introduce the virus to the U.S., which would cripple the domestic pork industry and U.S. pork exports valued at $6.5 billion annually.
Interception has risen sharply
In the first five months of fiscal 2020, the interception of prohibited meats from China at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport has increased 70% compared with the same period the year before, CBP reported.
“Foreign plant pests and animal diseases like ASF and exotic fruit flies can cause devastating losses to the agriculture industry. USDA and CBP are committed to working together to intercept illegal products and protect the health of U.S. livestock and crops,” said Helene Wright, USDA state plant health director for California.
Chinese animal products are in high demand in certain communities in the U.S. Smugglers attempt to bring in those products, which are later sold in markets. Many consumers are not aware of the import restrictions.
“Every day, CBP agriculture specialists protect the livelihoods of American farm workers, our food supply and, ultimately, our nation’s agriculture prosperity,” said Donald Kusser, CBP port director of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport.
When unmanifested animal products are discovered, CBP reports the violation to USDA and issues an emergency action for the expedited destruction of the contraband.