U.S. Customs And Border Protection Officers Crack Down On Illegally Imported Food
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By Todd Quinones
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Passengers arriving from overseas, at times bring with them unwanted guests, Customs and Border control agents say it’s all in the food.
With the holidays here, Italian meats like prosciutto and salami, along with chestnuts and figs, are being brought in illegally by the pounds.
“We also see those people try to conceal it. Conceal it in shoes, in boxes. Conceal it in clothing,” said Steve Sapp from U.S. Customs and Border.
One passenger arriving in Chicago even tried carving out a book to smuggle in sausage.
U.S Customs and Border Protection is in charge of preventing meat from entering the country illegally, and they see it all, from the basic to the bizarre, like a 100-year-old fermented egg found at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, or wild African bush meat discovered at Philadelphia International Airport.
“Just picture a rat. A New York City subway rat, only six times larger,” Sapp said.
K9’s like ‘Auburn’ and her handler Melissa Wallace roam customs at Philadelphia International Airport.
Together they help search the more than one and a half million people who pass through the international terminal every year.
Auburn sniffs and scratches, looking for food that can destroy American crops and livestock.
“There’s classical Swine Fever, Foot and mouth disease,” says Todd Edelschein from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
An outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease could devastate the beef supply.
“So that steak, that you are maybe spending $6 a pound for at the supermarket, may wind up being $12 a pound,” Sapp said.
“At the end of the day all the fruits and vegetables seized are brought back to what is appropriately called ‘the grinding room.’”
Fruits and vegetables are meticulously inspected for fruit flies and maggots before being destroyed by a powerful grinder.
It’s a non-stop job.
In 2010 alone there were 1,400 incidents of pest related cases found at PHL, and 7,000 meat and dairy products seized.
And it’s Auburn’s nose that has sniffed much of that out.