LOS ANGELES–In 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of shipments containing prohibited pork, chicken, beef, and duck products arriving from China intercepted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists in Los Angeles, nearly doubled compared with the previous year.
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, Customs and Border Protection in Los Angeles issued 1,049 Emergency Action Notifications compared to 527 in 2019, a 99 percent increase. When unmanifested-prohibited animal products are intercepted, feds issue the notification for destruction or re-exportation of the contraband.
According to USDA, China is a country affected by African Swine Fever, Classical Swine Fever, Newcastle Disease, Foot and Mouth Disease, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Swine Vesicular Disease.
The significant increase in meat interceptions is the result of several actions including, the rollout of a special initiative to prevent the introduction of Asian Swine Fever in the U.S.; a better collaboration with USDA strategic partners; the COVID-19 international travel restrictions; and the realignment of Customs and Border Protection enforcement posture to tackle smuggling and trade fraud that didn’t slow down during the pandemic.
“CBP continues to work closely with the USDA and other government and private-sector partners to protect the nation from a variety of diverse threats, including those posed by plant pests, biological agents, and foreign animal diseases through prohibited meat and plant products arriving by air, land, and sea,” said Carlos Martel, Customs and Border Protection Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “The role of the CBP’s agriculture specialists at our ports of entry is more crucial than ever.”
Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists found most of the unmanifested animal products 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.
In 2020, Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport intercepted 183 shipments of prohibited meat products that compared with 29 the previous year, represented an increase of 531 percent.
That same year, Los Angeles International Airport prohibited meat interceptions reached 866 compared with 498 the year before, marking a 73 percent increase.
Chinese animal products are in high demand in certain communities in the United States. Smugglers attempt to bring those products which are later sold in Asian groceries markets. Many consumers are not aware of the importation restrictions.
Pork products from ASF-affected countries may introduce the virus to the United States, crippling the domestic pork industry and U.S. pork exports valued at $6.5 billion annually.
The ASF is spread by contact with an infected animals’ body fluids. It can be spread by ticks that feed on infected animals.