LAREDO, TEXAS — As the U.S.-Mexico border community prepares for the upcoming All Souls Day (Día de Los Muertos) holiday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are advising the traveling public that certain agricultural items used in holiday decorations are prohibited from entry to the U.S. and can carry harmful pests and disease, such as the citrus greening disease, which if allowed to establish itself further can be devastating to America’s citrus industry.
“Protecting our American agriculture from plant pests and diseases is critical to the economic security of the U.S.,” said Director of Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office. “As we approach the Dia de los Muertos holiday, it is important to remind our community partners transiting our South Texas ports of entry to remember not to bring citrus or prohibited greenery back from Mexico.”
Many border community families celebrate Día de los Muertos by constructing altares (altars) to commemorate the lives of loved ones or famous persons that have passed on. Common types of ornamental greenery such as pine boughs or murraya (orange jasmine) are often used in the construction of altares, but both are prohibited from entry. Murraya is a host plant for the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, an insect that can carry citrus greening disease and is therefore prohibited from entry into the U.S.
Citrus greening, also known as “huanglongbing,” is a disease caused by a bacterium that can infect most citrus varieties and some ornamental plants (such as orange jasmine) and was first detected in the U.S. in 2005 in Miami-Dade County, Fla. According to the USDA, the disease has seriously affected citrus production in India, Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
Prohibited citrus includes the following: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes. Other popular fruits that also are prohibited include guavas, mangoes, peaches and pomegranates.
Failure to declare prohibited agricultural items also can result in fines. Penalties for personal importations of undeclared, prohibited agricultural items, depending on the severity of the violation, can run as high as $1,000 and up to more than $250,000 for commercial importations.
The traveling public can learn more about prohibited fruits, vegetables, plant and animal products and other prohibited items by consulting the “Know Before You Go” guide or the list of prohibited/restricted items.
For more detailed information on huanglongbing or citrus greening disease, the public can consult the USDA/APHIS website.
For more detailed information about what food items can and cannot be brought from Mexico, travelers can access the USDA/APHIS website.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.