HOUSTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at George Bush Intercontinental Airport seized 30 birds’ nests, Tuesday.
These items, considered a delicacy in some countries, are prohibited from entering the U.S. as they can carry Newcastle Disease or the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) virus.
The passenger, who was arriving from Vietnam, did not declare the items. During the passenger’s baggage examination, CBP agriculture specialists discovered the nests concealed inside a box of herbs.
“CBP’s agriculture mission requires that we safeguard America’s agricultural and natural resources,” said Port Director Charles Perez. “Our agriculture specialists recognize the importance of intercepting these types of smuggling attempts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and harmful pests that have not been introduced into our agriculture. Seizures like this one keep that threat at bay.”
Birds’ nests are created from the solidified saliva of birds and are used to make a soup or broth. In some cultures they are considered a prized possession due to their high nutritional value and exceptional taste. Birds’ nests are high in calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. However since bird’s nests are considered likely carriers of infectious diseases they are prohibited from entry to the U.S.
The passenger was assessed a $300 penalty for failure to declare prohibited agricultural products and the birds’ nests were seized and destroyed.
Travelers are encouraged to visit the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or CBP’s website for information about bringing food and agriculture items into the United States.
On a typical day in fiscal year 2015, CBP agriculture specialists discovered 4548 materials that required quarantine or destruction including plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil.