Every day, more than 400 pounds of food coming off international flights at New York JFK goes into a giant garbage disposal.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is concerned the food will have foreign pests in it. Not all food is forbidden - CBP has some broad guidelines on its website - but a lot of stuff is not allowed into the country. If CBP can find it contraband, it will confiscate it. The good news: As long as you declare your food, you won't be in trouble, even if CBP takes it from you.
"Agricultural pests and diseases are a threat to U.S. crop production and to the livestock industry, " CBP says on its website. "Some animal diseases can be highly contagious and could cause severe economic damage to livestock and result in losses in production, which could lead to increased costs for meat and dairy products."
PRI's The World had a neat story this week on CBP's role in monitoring the food that comes into the country. It's a radio show, but there's a companion video that I have embedded above, produced by an outlet called, Great Big Story.
In November, the Los Angeles Times had a humorous story about a man who tried to bring 450 pork tamales from Mexico through Terminal 2 at LAX. "The passenger would have been in the clear had he tried to bring sweet tamales -- or those all-masa ones that always seem to be left over," the story noted. But not pork. That's not OK, because of agricultural concerns.
The Times says the man was fined $1,000 "...because authorities believed the tamales were going to be sold and distributed."
Have you ever had trouble bringing food across the border?