U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has confiscated more than 100 pounds of bushmeat from travelers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in recent weeks.
In a news release Wednesday, CBP said the importation of prohibited wild animal meat has become a trend that could lead to the outbreak of disease among humans.
“Minnesota’s CBP agriculture specialists are focused on their mission to prevent entry of prohibited items from entering into the United States,” said LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations-Chicago. “The sheer volume of bushmeat our specialist intercept clearly shows how they play a critical role in preventing diseases from entering the United States.”
Over the last week of 2021, officials seized 104 pounds of bushmeat. The term is used to describe raw or minimally processed meat that comes from wild animals (bats, nonhuman primates, cane rats, and antelope) in certain regions, including Africa.
The CBP says these meats are often smoked, dried or salted, which isn't an effective way to prevent disease. Because of this, bushmeat can be infected with germs and can cause people to get sick with viruses, including Ebola.
Because bushmeat could potentially introduce foreign animal disease, CBP agriculture specialists "take the most restrictive action" to seize and destroy any bushmeat in a traveler's luggage.
The CBP says U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been returning from Liberia with bushmeat in recent weeks but they're only declaring they have fish. And when they're asked directly about it, some continue to declare they only have fish, CBP said.
When their luggage is searched, officials discover more than just fish, with the CBP noting most packages of meat are wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper, plastic, foil and tape.
Last week, agriculture specialists stopped a passenger returning from Liberia and when he was asked if he had any bushmeat, he said he had "parts of a monkey." He ended up having two primate arms and "primate rib material," CBP said.
"The intermingling of fish and bushmeat in the same package is common," Chief Agriculture Specialist Lauren Lewis said in a statement.
Steven Bansbach of CBP told Bring Me The News the maximum penalty for bringing bushmeat into the U.S. is $250,000. In most cases, CBP agriculture specialists educate passengers about the dangers of bringing the meat into the U.S. That's unless they are repeat offenders or other circumstances.
The National Institute of Health in 2017 looked at the incentives for bushmeat consumption and importation of bushmeat among West African immigrants living in Minnesota. Read it here.