Shipments containing prohibited pork, chicken, beef and duck products arriving in the United States from China that were intercepted by inspectors in Los Angeles nearly doubled in 2020 compared with the previous year, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities said Friday.
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, federal agents in Los Angeles issued 1,049 Emergency Action Notifications compared with 527 such notifications in 2019, said Jaime Ruiz of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"China is a country affected by African swine fever, classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, foot and mouth disease, highly pathogenic avian influenza, and swine vesicular disease,'' Ruiz said in a statement.
Agriculture specialists found most of the unmanifested animal products commingled in boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tablets, trash bags, swim fins, cell phone covers, plastic cases and household goods in "a clear attempt to smuggle the prohibited meats,'' Ruiz said.
"CBP continues to work closely with ... other government and private-sector partners to protect the nation from a variety of diverse threats, including those posed by plant pests, biological agents and foreign animal diseases through prohibited meat and plant products arriving by air, land, and sea,'' said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles.
"The role of the CBP's agriculture specialists at our ports of entry is more crucial than ever,'' Martel said.
Chinese animal products are in high demand in certain communities in the United States, and smugglers attempt to bring in those products, which are later sold in Asian grocery markets, authorities said. Many consumers are not aware of the importation restrictions.
Authorities are concerned that pork products from swine fever-affected countries could introduce the virus to the United States, crippling the domestic pork industry and U.S. pork exports, which are valued at $6.5 billion annually.