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Dulles CBP Seizes Undeclared Food in 7 of 8 Suitcases

Release Date: 
January 31, 2014

**Editor’s Note: Please contact Steve Sapp at  stephen.sapp@cbp.dhs.gov or  (215) 594-4117 for pictures of the seized chick peas and popcorn with leaves.

Sterling, Va. Generally, when international travelers try to smuggle prohibited food products through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the food products are in small amounts or are cleverly concealed inside something else.

Rarely do CBP agriculture specialists encounter such a brazen attempt like they did Tuesday when a West Chester, Pa., couple attempted to smuggle about 30 pounds of undeclared and prohibited food products from India through Washington Dulles International Airport inside seven of their eight suitcases. Confounding CBP even more is that the man and woman were trusted travelers in the agency’s Global Entry expedited arrivals program.

CBP agriculture specialists assessed a $500 civil penalty for repeatedly failing to declare the prohibited food products.

CBP officers also revoked the couple’s Global Entry memberships.

“First and foremost, this privilege is predicated upon the trust that these select travelers will fully comply with all applicable U.S. laws and regulations, including laws that protect our nation’s agricultural economy,” said Christopher Hess, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “We have zero tolerance for travelers who deliberately violate that trust and unnecessarily place our nation’s agriculture and economy at risk.”

The couple returned from India through Dubai and processed their international arrivals separately at the Global Entry self-help kiosks. Neither traveler declared possessing any food products. CBP officers referred them to a secondary compliance inspection.

During that secondary inspection, the couple again declared not possessing food products in any of their eight pieces of baggage. After further questioning, they then declared possessing only sweets and spices. When a CBP agriculture specialist passed each bag through an x-ray, anomalies were detected in seven bags. Further examination discovered about 25 pounds of chick peas and five pounds of popcorn with green curry leaves.

Chickpeas from India are prohibited due to the possible introduction of harmful plant diseases and insect pests, such as the highly destructive Khapra beetle.

“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job of protecting our nation’s agricultural industries very seriously, and are especially vigilant against potentially harmful insect pests or plant diseases,” Hess said.

CBP agriculture specialists work closely with USDA’s, APHIS, PPQ to protect our nation’s agriculture resources against the introduction of foreign plants, plant pests, and animal diseases.

For more on the USDA, APHIS, PPQ program, please visit the USDA APHIS web site.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seizes 4,380 prohibited animal products and plant materials, and intercepts 440 agriculture insect pests and diseases.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017