Houston, Texas - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist K9 team working at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport intercepted a passenger carrying over 24 pounds of prohibited or restricted agriculture items in her luggage, March 28.
The passenger, a citizen of Ecuador, only declared cuy after a CBP beagle alerted to her luggage. Cuy is a guinea pig and in South America is considered a source of protein. Cuy meat from Ecuador is not prohibited entry into the U.S.
With this declaration, the female passenger was referred for a baggage examination where CBP agriculture specialists discovered four pounds of chicken and beef sausages, four pounds of pork skins, 11 pounds of beef, four pounds of pork and citrus leaves concealed in roasted corn.
“It is not uncommon for visitors to want to bring a taste of home to their family and friends living in the U.S.,” said Houston CBP Port Director Shawn Polley. “However, what is oftentimes misunderstood is that the items they are bringing are prohibited or restricted for good reason. Our agriculture industry is vital to our nation’s economy as well as our own sustenance and our agriculture specialists and K9 teams are extremely diligent in their efforts to protect it.”
Missing among the various food products was the cooked guinea pig, which is not prohibited or restricted; however, other items that the passenger packed are not allowed in the U.S due to animal disease concerns. CBP agriculture specialists work to exclude introduction of foreign animal diseases such as Foot and mouth disease as well as Classical swine fever and Swine vesicular disease. Citrus leaves can harbor citrus greening disease or other citrus diseases that can threaten our citrus industry. The passenger was assessed a $300 fine and the prohibited and restricted items were seized.
Visitors to the U.S. are encouraged to declare all agriculture items they are bringing into the U.S. A traveler who declares an item that is prohibited or restricted may abandon the item at the port; however undeclared items that are prohibited or restricted can result in a civil fine. More information about bringing food to the U.S. is available here. On a typical day in fiscal year 2020, CBP intercepted 3,091 materials for quarantine including plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil.