El Paso, Texas - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will begin enforcing new U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements regarding the importation of cooked pork skins or "chicharrones" on January 14.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will require that cooked pork skins entering as commercial cargo or as personal importation from countries/regions affected with certain exotic animal diseases be accompanied by an original certificate issued by an official of the national government of the country/region of origin.
This new certification requirement will impact personal importations of cooked pork skins; including personal importations by passengers and pedestrians from Mexico. Currently, CBP officers are required to ensure that the pork skins are thoroughly cooked; the pork skins or rinds must be crisp and should crumble easily when bent.
"While it is important that the traveling public recognize this change, we do not anticipate any major issues locally because importations from the state of Chihuahua are not included in the list at this time," said Ana Hinojosa, director of Field Operations in El Paso. "Nevertheless those who travel beyond the immediate border area should be aware and take appropriate steps."
With the new requirement, cooked pork skins importations originating from Mexican states other than the states of Chihuahua, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Nayarit, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Sonora, or Yucatan must be accompanied by an origin health certificate certifying one of two following requirements.
The pork skins were cooked in oil for at least 80 minutes when oil temperature is consistently maintained at a minimum of 114 degrees Celsius or that the pork skins were dry-cooked at a minimum of 260 degrees Celsius for approximately 210 minutes after which the pork skins were cooked in hot oil (deep-fried) at a minimum of 104 degrees Celsius for an additional 150 minutes.
Importations presented without the required certification will be seized or refused entry.
As a reminder, travelers are encouraged to declare all food items to CBP officials. Failure to declare prohibited agricultural items can result in civil penalties. 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.