Importers May Face Fines Over Illegal Pork Shipment from China

China is a global competitor in many agricultural markets. ( Farm Journal Media )

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents reported on Friday that they seized one million pounds of food products from China this month, rather than one million pounds of pork as they had previously announced on March 15, in their efforts to keep African swine fever (ASF) out of the U.S.

The seized containers also had noodles and tea bags that were used to facilitate the unlawful import of pork products, said Anthony Bucci, CBP spokesman. No fresh pork was discovered in the shipment.

Authorities may fine importers of the products, said Basil Liakakos, CBP chief agriculture specialist at the Port of New York/Newark, but they will have a hard time punishing the exporters, Reuters reported. 

The importers have not been named publicly. Although the importers of the products may face fines, exporters are typically not penalized, Liakakos noted.

“It’s very difficult to penalize an exporting country,” he said. “You have to have a very large burden of proof to prove what they’re doing.” 

U.S. officials were concerned that the seized products could contain ASF because the disease is rampant in China at this time, Reuters reported. 

The USDA will not test the seized products to determine whether they actually had ASF, said Lyndsay Cole, spokeswoman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, because all products found in violation of U.S. regulations are incinerated and destroyed.

The U.S. pork industry continues to work with government officials to safeguard U.S. borders and to make sure that illegal import/export activities are met with swift and severe penalties to discourage others from attempting to transport contraband products. 

“Prevention of ASF is our only defense; we must remain on high alert at our airports and sea ports to prevent the illegal entry of meat products and be diligent in our farm biosecurity protocols,” the National Pork Producers Council said in a statement on Monday. 

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