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Airport Passengers Fined For Concealing Prohibited Agriculture Goods
By Daniel Baxter

September 22, 2012 - They’re not terrorists, but they could introduce something economically devastating. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Washington Dulles and Baltimore Washington international airports fined two travelers $300 each this week for deliberately, but unsuccessfully smuggling prohibited agriculture products in their luggage.  

The BWI passenger, who arrived from Jamaica concealed four guavas inside the lining of a purse inside her baggage and two peppers inside the liner of her suitcase. The Dulles passenger, who arrived from Mongolia was even more creative, concealing about 12 pounds of raw beef and pork sausage inside juice boxes and other food containers.   

Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered 12 pounds of raw beef and pork concealed inside juice boxes and snack food containers at Washington Dulles International Airport. CBP is the nation’s frontline protectors of America’s agriculture industries.  


A third passenger, who arrived to Dulles from Cameroon, failed to honestly declare 4 pounds, 6 ounces of beef that CBP agriculture specialists discovered inside her luggage and was assessed a $300 penalty. 

Fruit are potential vectors for invasive insect pests and fruit diseases that could cripple America’s crop industries. CBP enforces USDA’s regulations governing the import of animal products to reduce the risk of introducing exotic animal diseases into the United States. 

“It is very alarming that passengers are taking extreme efforts to conceal agriculture products that should be declared during the Customs and Border Protection arrivals inspection,” said Michael Lovejoy, Director, CBP Baltimore Field Office. “These are very serious threats because of the potentially severe agriculture and economic consequences that plant and animal diseases pose. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job of protecting America’s agriculture very seriously.” 

CBP employs several tactics to ensure passenger compliance with U.S. agriculture laws. First is the CBP Declaration Form which asks travelers to truthfully declare what they are bringing to the U.S. A CBP officer will ask those questions again during the primary arrivals inspection.  

A CBP agriculture detector dog, a beagle, patrols the primary and baggage return floors searching for agriculture products. Some passengers, and in some cases entire flights, may be referred to a secondary examination where CBP x-rays baggage, and if necessary, opens and searches baggage.



“Generally, most passengers are honest law-abiding travelers who truthfully declare all agriculture and other products they are bringing to the U.S.,” said Lovejoy. “But there is a small percentage of travelers who deliberately attempt to circumvent our compliance inspections. All it takes is one diseased fruit or meat product introduced into our crop or livestock industries and we have the potential for an economic crisis. It is our job to stop those potential threats at our nation’s borders.” 

CBP offers passengers several opportunities to truthfully declare all agriculture products that they possess, and only assesses civil penalties to those passengers who remain defiant. A small percentage of travelers remain evasive and are assessed civil penalties. During fiscal year 2011, which spans Oct. 1, 2010 through Sept. 30, 2011, CBP agriculture specialists at Washington Dulles seized more than 30,000 prohibited agriculture products and assessed 234 civil penalties, and at BWI, more than 4,000 prohibited agriculture products and assessed 17 civil penalties.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 470 insect pests.
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