Cincinnati, Ohio - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Specialists (CBPAS) at the Port of Cincinnati recently conducted a special operation in a continued effort to interrupt an extensive network of purposely mislabeled and high-risk agriculture products coming from Hong Kong, China, India, and Saudi Arabia.

This special operation took place over an eight-day period highlighting the increasing trend of customers using e-commerce to purchase illegal agriculture products from Asia.

“CBP Agriculture Specialists are the first line of defense to protect U.S. agriculture, forest, and livestock industries from exotic and destructive plant pests and animal diseases,” said Chief Supervisory CBP Officer Angela Dilland. “The success of this operation represents the diligence the Port of Cincinnati Agriculture Specialists demonstrate on a nightly basis as they serve to protect our agriculture industry from these invasive threats.”

In an attempt to evade detection by CBP, shippers and freight forwarders employ fictitious shipper names and addresses, and provide unrelated cargo descriptions in a continually evolving effort to smuggle illicit agriculture goods through ports of entry. The products are en route to various locations throughout the United States, including ethnic restaurants, food stores, and private residences.

Various concealment methods were discovered during this operation. CBPAS found meat smuggled in fish packets and tea bags, fruits inside sealed cookie bags, loose and packaged seeds within candy wrappers, and seeds in foil-lined bags in an effort to avoid x-ray detection.

The prohibited contraband included fresh plums and other fresh plant products, eggs, propagative plant materials including invasive species, and fresh and processed poultry and pork products coming from countries with known virulent disease outbreaks such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

In total, this special operation yielded 1,104 inspected shipments, 73 shipments Returned to Origin (RTO), 198 Emergency Action Notifications (EANs), four mis-delivery penalties, and 98 mis-manifesting penalties netting a total of $98,000 in fines. Additionally, CBPAS destroyed over 900 pounds of contraband from 146 shipments and found 10 pest interceptions.

CBP agriculture specialists at the Port of Cincinnati continue to analyze data gathered from this operation to identify emerging trends and pathways and to implement new procedures for continued operational successes.

CBP agriculture specialists have science-based degrees in the areas of agriculture, botany, entomology, biology, or plant pathology; all have the knowledge to recognize questionable and dangerous agricultural commodities.

On a typical day in 2014, CBP agriculture specialists intercepted 425 pests, 4,447 plant pests, and a significant quantity of quarantine material products to include fruits and vegetables, plant materials, meat products, meat by-products, and soil.  More information about how CBP protects U.S. agriculture can be found at Protecting Agriculture on the website.