CBP Seizes 107 Pounds of Smuggled Mexican Cheese
El Paso, Texas - U. S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas, seized 107 pounds of “queso fresco” (soft) Mexican cheese hidden in false compartments of a vehicle making entry Wednesday.
A 46-year-old Mexican citizen from Juarez, Mexico and his passenger, a 43-year-old female, arrived at the port in a 1996 Dodge Ram van. A CBP officer found evidence of a false compartment. A secondary inspection discovered four non-factory (false) compartments with blocks of cheese under the vehicle seats. CBP officers seized a total of eight blocks of cheese weighing 107 pounds.
"This seizure is an excellent example of Custom and Border Protection enforcement efforts at our ports of entry in protecting the American public from illegally and unregistered consumer products," said William Molaski, CBP Port Director, El Paso, Texas.
The cheese was seized and destroyed. The violator and his passenger were found to be working in the U.S. illegally. Their visas were cancelled and they were returned to Mexico.
Travelers are allowed to import personal quantities of cheese that is usually considered to be no more than 11 pounds. Travelers need to declare the product to CBP during the primary inspection. Commercial imports of cheese must be made through the CBP commercial cargo lots and must meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements.
The FDA, with the support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, carry out the provisions of the Bioterrorism Act. The act requires food facilities to be registered and FDA be given prior notice on shipments of imported food. Foreign cheese imports are required to meet strict industry and regulatory requirements. Commercial quantities of cheese are not allowed to be imported through the passenger environment.
"Queso Fresco" is a Mexican-style soft cheese that is sometimes made with unpasteurized milk. Soft cheese "queso fresco" can be dangerous if made or purchased illegally. Unpasteurized cheeses are brought into the U.S from Mexico illegally and often sold door-to-door, at flea markets or from the back of trucks. Eating contaminated soft cheeses can cause food-borne illnesses such as listeria, salmonella, E.coli and tuberculosis. Listeria is a dangerous bacteria found in unpasteurized milk products that can cause birth defects, even death to an unborn child.
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.