Customs Officials Seize Nearly 10 Tons of Prohibited Meats from China

June 21, 2020 Updated: June 22, 2020

U.S. customs officials intercepted 19,555 pounds of prohibited meat products from China between April 6 and June 6 in Los Angeles, intercepting them before they reached American consumers.

The meat products contained prohibited pork, chicken, beef, and duck. They were packaged in boxes that had other consumer products such as headphones, door locks, kitchenware, trash bags, and cellphone covers, “in a clear attempt to smuggle the prohibited means,” according to a June 19 statement from the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

These products—placed in 12 different shipments containing a total of 834 cartons—were intercepted by CBP agriculture specialists at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifies China as a country affected by African Swine Fever (ASF), Classical Swine Fever (CSF), Newcastle Disease (ND), Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Swine Vesicular Disease (SVD).

ASF, a highly contagious disease that is lethal to pigs and wild boars but not dangerous to humans, was not found on the Asian continent prior to an outbreak in China in August 2018.

Since then, ASF began appearing in neighboring countries. In March, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that the disease was affecting many countries in Asia, including China, the Philippines, Burma, and Indonesia.

China has continued to battle the ASF, with new ASF cases reported in multiple provinces in recent months, including Yunnan, Gansu, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, according to Reuters.

Pigs can contract the disease by eating ASF-contaminated products or being exposed to farmworkers’ shoes and clothing tainted with the disease. As a result, U.S. customs officials warned that shipments of prohibited meats into the United States could potentially contaminate U.S. livestock and cripple the U.S. pork industry and its exports valued at $6.5 billion annually.

“Foreign plant pests and animal diseases like ASF and exotic fruit flies can cause devastating losses to the agriculture industry,” said Helene Wright, USDA State Plant Health Director for California, in the press release.

Customs officials said the interception of prohibited meats from China at the LA/Long Beach Seaport increased 70 percent in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period a year ago.

In February last year, U.S. customs officials at the Port of New York/Newark seized over 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of prohibited animal products in 23 sea cargo shipments originating from China, according to a press release.

Other countries have also seized ASF-contaminated products from China. In January, Filipino customs officials announced that a shipment of pork balls and dumplings that arrived at the Manila International Container Port a month earlier tested positive for the disease, according to local media.

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