On the heels of a massive cocaine bust at a New Jersey port, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced another big seizure on Friday of roughly 1 million pounds of pork smuggled from China, where there’s an ongoing outbreak of deadly African swine fever.
Officials announced the seizure of more than 50 shipping containers during a press conference Friday morning at a warehouse in Elizabeth. Three rooms were filled wall-to-wall with packages of the illegally smuggled pork products.
“Agriculture specialists made a critical interception of these prohibited animal products, and stopped them from entering the U.S. before they could potentially cause grave damage,” said Troy Miller, director of Customs and Border Protection Field Operations in New York/Newark.
The seizure was in an effort to battle the spread of African swine fever, a contagious, deadly virus which has killed more than a million pigs in China. The disease has never been reported in the United States, and does not affect humans, but spreads rapidly to domestic pigs and wild boars. If African swine fever infected American livestock, it could cause $10 billion in damage to the pork industry in just one year, Miller said.
The million-pounds of pork is the largest agricultural seizure in the U.S., he said. More than 100 Custom and Border Protection agricultural specialists and canines from the Department of Agriculture worked to uncover the prohibited food.
The pork was smuggled in various different ways including in ramen noodle bowls to Tide detergent, deputy chief agricultural specialist Basil Liakakos said.
In some cases, the packaging matched the product on the manifest, but the contents were prohibited pork. In other instances, the pork was simply packaged among other good, authorities said.
“This was highly orchestrated,” said Stephen Maloney, the Customs and Border Patrol’s acting port director for the Port of New York/Newark. “There was a conceited effort to conceal here to bring this product in.”
Agricultural specialists and inspectors are still going through the boxes. Once all 50 shipping containers have been examined, the confiscated products will be incinerated, Miller said.
“I’m quite confident that if is anyone is smuggling illicit items in through Newark, we will continue to identify, seize and destroy the products,” Miller said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to investigate the smuggling, and eventually decide what, if any, repercussions China and people involved will face.
The Newark port of entry is one of the busiest in the country, and sees thousands of cargo containers pass through every day. Since the reopening of the Bayonne Bridge, ship traffic has gone up 11 percent.
By- Sophie Nieto-Munoz