Federal authorities in Los Angeles County on Wednesday, May 18, announced the recent seizures of prohibited plant and animal products being imported into the country via ocean containers and postal and express air mail. Among the shipments seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists:
— On May 4, while examining an air mail shipment declared as “earphones” arriving from Malaysia, authorities opened a box and discovered 26 vials containing live centipedes concealed in earphone cases.
— On April 27, authorities intercepted a shipment arriving from Hong Kong with 28.6 pounds of dried sea cucumbers declared as “dried food.”
— On May 3, authorities found 15 “unknown live propagative plants” with soil, declared as “plastic flowers” arriving from China.
— And on May 5, they discovered over 55 pounds of noodles with “ruminant ingredient and swine sausage products” that were declared as a “packaging box.”
All the shipments lacked the required official permits or certificates, Customs and Border Protection authorities said.
In fiscal year 2020, the CBP Los Angeles Field Office issued 2,695 Emergency Action Notifications, compared with 4,665 in fiscal year 2021, an increase of 73%, authorities said.
“The illegal importation of plants and animal products could introduce foreign pests and diseases threatening the United States vital agriculture industry,” said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles County. “These unprecedented numbers reflect the critical role of CBP*s agriculture specialists in identifying and intercepting these shipments.”
The live centipedes and the dried sea cucumbers shipments were referred to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for investigation and final determination. The FWS requires a license to trade in wildlife and possibly additional permits if the species is protected.
The propagative plants, the ruminant noodles and swine sausages were destroyed under USDA and CBP supervision using steam sterilization.
Many consumers are not aware of the importation restrictions, Martel said.
Pork products from African Swine Fever 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, Martel said.
The ASF is spread by contact with an infected animal’s body fluids, and can be spread by ticks that feed on infected animals.