San Diego - Ponche, a traditional Mexican holiday punch, is shared and enjoyed among many families along the Southwest Border during holiday seasons. However, the ingredients used to make it, guavas, Hawthorn apples (tejocotes) and sugar cane, are all illegal when imported across the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists are expecting an increase in the attempted importation of the prohibited ingredients through passenger ports of entry.
CBP is advising the public that the prohibited items pose significant pest risks. Tejocotes, and especially guavas, are hosts to exotic fruit flies. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, fruit flies are among the most destructive pests of fruits and vegetables around the world. Fruit flies spend their larval stages feeding and growing in over 400 host plants. Introduction of these pest species into the United States causes economic losses from destruction and spoiling of host commodities by larvae, costs associated with implementing control measures, and loss of market share due to restrictions on shipment of host commodities. Both guavas and tejocotes are prohibited under 7 CFR 319.56, and sugar cane, if imported freshly harvested, is prohibited under 7 CFR 319.15.
According to Chris Maston, the Director of Field Operations in San Diego, local border officials are expecting an increase in attempts to illegally bring the ponche ingredients across the border.
"I want to remind the public that these products are prohibited and failure to declare them could result in penalties," he said. "Historically, we've seen an increased rate of interception of these items during the holiday season."
CBP officers and agriculture specialists will be on the lookout for individuals attempting to import these ponche ingredients through the passenger environment and will refer vehicles for secondary inspection that are believed to be transporting these and other prohibited items.
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.