Prohibited produce posed alarming threat to Florida’s citrus crop economy
PHILADELPHIA – An Italian family’s baggage didn’t pass the sniff test.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture detector dog Harrie, a three-year-old beagle and expert sniffer of all things agricultural, alerted to the baggage of the family of five that arrived on a flight from Rome, Italy to Philadelphia International Airport on January 20. The family, who was destined to a relative’s home in Tampa, Florida, were detoured through a secondary examination where CBP agriculture specialists discovered nearly 17 pounds of citrus with leaves and another six pounds of persimmons across three pieces of baggage.
Prohibited citrus pose the potential introduction of diseases, such as citrus canker or citrus greening, two of the most destructive citrus diseases, to our nation’s citrus crops. That potential threat is magnified as the family was destined to a state known for its citrus industry, where the introduction of citrus canker or citrus greening could cause long-term economic impacts to the state and to the nation.
The fruit also serves as vectors for hitchhiking destructive insect pests, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly. During this secondary examination, CBP agriculture specialists discovered among the citrus leaves a living land snail that the U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist identified as Helicoidea (Superfamily).
Harrie is a one-year veteran of CBP’s Beagle Brigade, a group of highly-skilled canine partners that help CBP agriculture specialists protect our nation’s vital agricultural resources from plant and animal diseases, invasive insects, and federal noxious weeds.
CBP seized the citrus and persimmons and released the family to continue their travel to Tampa. The fruit was later incinerated.
“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists have a very challenging mission to protect our nation’s economic security by safeguarding our agricultural resources, and detector dogs such as Harrie are critical to that mission’s success,” said Joseph Martella, Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Philadelphia. “Our Beagle Brigade can quickly detect meat and plant products in the baggage of passengers who truthfully declared it and more importantly in the baggage of passengers who don’t. Those latter passengers create a significant risk and our canines work hard to mitigate that risk.”
CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection, and they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes being imported to the United States. They are on our nation’s frontlines to ensure our nation’s economic resilience by protecting our critical agricultural resources.
During a typical day last year, CBP agriculture specialists across the nation seized 4,552 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 319 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry.
CBP's border security mission is led at our nation’s Ports of Entry by CBP officers and agriculture specialists from the Office of Field Operations. CBP screens international travelers and cargo and searches for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, invasive weeds and pests, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.
Learn what CBP accomplished during "A Typical Day" in 2021 and learn more about CBP at www.CBP.gov.
Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos, and CBP’s Office of Field Operations on Instagram at @cbpfieldops.