Animal Food Contraband Smuggled Through LA/LB Ports at Record Levels: Customs

(Left) Customs officers at the LA/Long Beach port complex have intercepted an unprecedented number of shipments containing prohibited pork, chicken, beef and duck products. Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The seizures of prohibited meat products from China is continuing at levels never seen before at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport complex, according to a new report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In just the first quarter of fiscal year 2022, (October-December 2021) Customs agriculture specialists intercepted 262,237 pounds of prohibited pork, chicken, beef and duck products, a 33% increase from same period the year before, Customs data show.

“This concerning uptrend began intensifying in fiscal year 2021, when in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of prohibited animal products interdicted by CBP at the LA/LB Seaport reached an unprecedented 786,514 pounds, marking a staggering increase of 80% compared to the previous year,” CBP said in a statement.

“Preventing the introduction of foreign contagious animal diseases and noxious pests at our nation’s largest seaport is paramount and vital to our agriculture industry and the well-being of the communities we serve,” CBP Los Angeles Field Operations Director Carlos C. Martel said.

From October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021, LA/Long Beach CBP agriculture specialists issued 1,256 Emergency Action Notifications—a 52 percent increase—and 166 Significant Incident Reports, 50% more than the previous year.

CBP agriculture specialists found most of the unmanifested animal products commingled in boxes of other products and household goods in a clear attempt to smuggle the prohibited meats. Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

When unmanifested/prohibited animal products are intercepted, CBP issues an Emergency Action Notification to initiate the destruction or re-exportation of the contraband.

According to USDA, China is a country affected by African Swine Fever (ASF), Classical Swine Fever (CSF), virulent Newcastle Disease (vND), Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Swine Vesicular Disease (SVD).

CBP agriculture specialists say they found most of the unmanifested animal products commingled in boxes of e-commerce shipments and household goods in attempts to smuggle the prohibited meats.

“CBP plays a major role in protecting American consumers and the agriculture industry from pests and diseases,” Donald R. Kusser, CBP Port Director of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport, said.  “These unprecedented numbers reflect the critical role and outstanding contributions of CBP’s agriculture specialists, they have been working tirelessly identifying, intercepting and seizing these prohibited items.”

CBP agriculture specialist
A CBP agriculture specialist inspects a shipment of prohibited meat products. U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Unregulated animal products from China are in high demand, according to CBP, and smugglers attempt to smuggle those products into the U.S. for profit without regard to consumer safety or potential damage to the agriculture industry.

“Pork products from ASF-affected countries may introduce the virus to the United States, crippling the domestic pork industry and U.S. pork exports valued at $6.5 billion annually,” Customs explained in a statement.