U.S. federal agents seized 1 million lb. (454 metric tons) of pork smuggled from China to a port in New Jersey amid fears the meat could contain traces of the African swine fever virus, according to Bloomberg and other media outlets.
The action marks the largest-ever seizure of agricultural products in the U.S., according to Anthony Bucci, public affairs specialist at U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP). The pork arrived in more than 50 shipping containers over the past few weeks to the port in Newark, N.J., hidden in containers of ramen noodles and laundry detergent, he said.
"At this point, it’s an ongoing investigation," Bucci told Bloomberg, adding that the customs agency is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The U.S. has never had African swine fever, and officials are stepping up efforts to keep the disease out.
According to NJ.com, officials announced the seizure of more than 50 shipping containers during a press conference Friday morning at a warehouse in Elizabeth, N.J. Three rooms were filled wall to wall with packages of the illegally smuggled pork products.
“Agriculture specialists made a critical interception of these prohibited animal products and stopped them from entering the U.S. before they could potentially cause grave damage,” said Troy Miller, director of CBP field operations in New York/Newark.
If African swine fever infected U.S. livestock, it could cause $10 billion in damage to the pork industry in just one year, Miller said.
More than 100 CBP agricultural specialists and canines from USDA worked to uncover the prohibited food, he added.
The pork was smuggled in various different ways, including in ramen noodle bowls to Tide detergent, deputy chief agricultural specialist Basil Liakakos said.
“This was highly orchestrated,” said Stephen Maloney, CBP acting port director for the Port of New York/Newark. “There was a concerted effort to conceal here to bring this product in.”
Agricultural specialists and inspectors are still going through the boxes. Once all 50 shipping containers have been examined, the confiscated products will be incinerated, Miller said.
“I’m quite confident that if is anyone is smuggling illicit items in through Newark, we will continue to identify, seize and destroy the products," Miller said.
USDA will continue to investigate the smuggling and eventually decide what, if any, repercussions China and people involved will face, the media outlets reported.
The Newark port of entry is one of the busiest in the country and sees thousands of cargo containers pass through it every day.