Thursday, November 01, 2007

Illegal Import violations from Beetles, Bugs, Foods and Foliage found.
Border agents block some interesting contraband

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials expressed concern Thursday about illegal plants, foods, and pests found in recent border entry stops — including an invasive beetle known to feed on evergreen trees and shrubs and six raw pigeons stuffed with rice and herbs.

Since August, agricultural specialists with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have blocked several deliberate and accidental attempts by businesses and individuals to bring improper foreign foods, plants and pests into southeast Michigan. Agricultural specialists with CBPA, working at entry ports at Metro Airport, Port Huron and the Canadian borders, have intercepted four attempts at the border crossings and six attempts at the airport.

Ronald Smith, CBPA spokesman in Detroit, said the specialists are looking for all sorts of pests, “little things that could cause us bigger problems later.”

In one instance, Aug. 25, a traveler arriving from Ghana tried to bring 25 plants to grow and 200 adult butterflies to mount. The plant soil could have introduced pests or a plant disease to the country, customs officials said.

On Aug. 30 a traveler arrived from Italy with a bag of live snails and two small trees in his baggage. In September, a canine unit found six raw pigeons from Egypt stuffed with rice and herbs in another traveler’s luggage.

Commercial shipments have also been a problem. On Oct. 10, a commercial shipment in wooden crates was found to contain two species of beetles, one of which is known for feeding on evergreen trees and shrubs. Another commercial shipment of 150 trees and shrubs, certified sanitary by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was stopped Sept. 22 in Port Huron and found to contain leafhoppers – known to spread plant disease.

“They’re looking for this stuff every day . . . trying to protect our economy and ecology,” Smith said about the agricultural specialists, who are trained biologists.

All of the import violations are considered civil infractions. Penalties include the loss of product and small fines.

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