Meat smugglers are out to breach U.S. borders, endangering pork industry

Meat smugglers are out to breach U.S. borders, endangering pork industry

by Sue Jones
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The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s job of keeping African Swine Fever out of the United States is not helped by stepped up and all too common meat smuggling.

Whether commingled in those shipping containers stacked up at U.S. ports or moved across a southern border run by cartels, there are more opportunities for meat smuggling into the United States than ever before.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection keeps turning up evidence about how it’s working. At the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport April 6 through June 6, 2021, CBP intercepted 19,555 pounds of prohibited pork, chicken, beef, and duck arriving from China.

At a big port like LA/LB, the “unmanifested animal products” were commingled in boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tables, trash bags, swim fins, cell phone covers, plastic cases, and household goods. All those items are typical covers for the attempts to smuggle illegal meats.

Or the smugglers can just drive the illegal and dangerous meat across the Texas-Mexico border. In August 2021, CPP found 31 rolls of pork bologna (350 pounds) and two rolls of turkey ham concealed under blankets, and seats, of a smuggler’s car’s center console, and also inside a duffel bag,

According to APHIS, China is affected by African swine fever, classic swine fever, Newcastle disease, foot-and-mount disease, highly pathogenic avian influenza, and swine vesicular disease.

The increased smuggling now being experienced puts America’s animal agriculture at risk. African Swine Fever alone holds the potential of wiping out the entire pork industry.

“With the recent detection of the African Swine Fever in the Dominican Republic, it is important that no pork products are brought into the U.S.,” said CBP El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha in a recent statement. “Pork products can introduce foreign animal diseases that can be detrimental to our agriculture industry.”

“Our close collaboration with our USDA strategic partners has resulted in an increased number of prohibited food products interceptions relatively quickly,” said Carlos C. Martel, CBP’s field operations director in Los Angeles. “CBP agriculture specialists remain committed and vigilant of foreign animal disease.”

The USDA and CBP jointly are working to keep plant pests and animal diseases out of the U.S.

Chinese animal products are in high demand in “certain communities” in the United States by consumers who do not concern themselves with import restrictions, according to officials.

When smuggling is discovered, CDP reports it to USDA. The product is seized and destroyed, but the smuggler often faces only a civil fine. In August 2021, the driver who brought the pork over the U.S.-Mexican border got off with only a $1,000 civil penalty.

Pork products from ASF-affected countries could easily introduce the virus to the U.S, crippling the domestic pork industry and U.S. pork exports valued at $6.5 billion annually.

AFS spreads by contact with an infected animal’s bodily fluids.

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