Reporting Joe Shortsleeve
BOSTON (CBS) – Disease-carrying meat and bug-infested fruit seized at Logan Airport.
It can make us sick and destroy our crops here at home.
And more and more foreign travelers are trying to smuggle what they consider delicacies around the holidays.
Packed neatly in a suit case, it looked like a container of coffee. But really it was smoked bacon.
It clearly took some effort to smuggle it from Romania and it’s something customs inspectors see at Logan all the time.
“It is the same concern as the other pork products, you could have hoof and mouth disease, classical swine fever, any number of diseases could be in there,” said U.S. Customs officer Sean Smith.
WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports
WBZ asked Smith, “Is it just for the person eating it, or is there a chance of it spreading to others?”
Smith said officials are worried about diseases spreading to others.
Every day U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers at Terminal E at Logan seize about 60 pounds of meat and another 60 pounds of agriculture.
They are finding it in suitcases arriving from all over the world.
So every day Officer Smith suits up, slipping on plastic gloves, looking for harmful diseases and pests that can hide on them, like exotic plants coming into this country.
Tearing open a flowering plant he said, “If you look inside here, the soil is a real threat because it can harbor a lot of bacteria, and viruses and non-native species.”
Some of what these federal officers in find people’s luggage defies logic.
Shortsleeve asked, “So you’ve actually had someone bring in a cooked monkey before?”
“We have had what’s called ‘bush meat’ which comes from Africa,” said Smith. “By the time we see it, it is unrecognizable, it is smoked, it is cooked, and you can’t tell what it is.”
Shortsleeve asked, “What would be the risk with something like that?”
“The risk would be there could be human pathogens in the meat, such as Ebola, something could make us very sick as well as the animals,” said Smith.
So what are these officers looking for?
In a private room located just off the main room at Terminal E, there are some small vials. Inside there are bugs found on fruit coming into the country.
Remember the 1980s?
It was the Mediterranean fruit fly which devastated the California agriculture industry to the tune of $100 million. It only takes one apple to spread something like the fruit fly and to create an outbreak. So customs inspectors carefully examine luggage and inspect anything that is suspect.
They employ high-tech tools like scanning devices and a low-tech option like a small dog named “Apache.” Passengers watch as he sniffs the bags just off the plane. He’s trained to sit when he gets a whiff of any meat or produce.
Kevin Weeks is in charge of the Customs Office at Logan. He said public health is the top priority — but a bad infestation can also hit us hard at the grocery store.
“We are going to have some residual effects that going to our economy, industry, and ultimately the consumer because the eradication costs are going to be factored in with higher prices,” said Weeks.
Environmental havoc can start with just one piece of intercepted fruit.
The seized produce is destroyed at the airport. The meat is taken off site to an incinerator.
Travelers can face a $300 fine.