SAN DIEGO — 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.
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. A common type of ornamental greenery known as murraya or orange jasmine is often used in the construction of altares. 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.
The objective is to educate the community about the devastating impact of citrus greening and what actions they can take to prevent citrus greening from establishing a greater foothold in the U.S.
“Among the actions U.S.-Mexico border residents can take is to remember not to bring any orange jasmine or other prohibited citrus fruits and plants from Mexico into the U.S.,” said Pete Flores, CBP director of field operations for San Diego. “We also want to remind travelers that they are prohibited, so there are no surprises at the border.”
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 top 10 travelers’ tips at the following link:
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.