|A recent five-kilo rice interception at DFW airport contained
evidence of khapra beetle, a notorious quarantine pest. Photo
by Customs and Border Protection.
Take just one example from the latest report:
"On February 06, 2012 a passenger arrived at DFW International Airport from India... The passenger was referred to agriculture secondary for inspection. The passenger did not declare any items of agriculture interest...and a verbal declaration was unattainable due to a language barrier. During the inspection of the passenger’s luggage, 5 kilograms [about 10 lbs] of rice was discovered. The rice was seized and quarantined for further inspected. Upon further inspection of the rice, a coleoptera [beetle] cast skin was found. Tentative identification of Trogoderma granarium [khapra beetle] was given for the cast skin. As a result, the specimen was forwarded to the local USDA Area Identifier for further identification. The rice was destroyed by steam sterilization. On February 29, 2012, final identification of the pest was received, confirming the tentative identification of Trogoderma granarium...a quarantine significant pest."If you're like most people, you've probably never heard of khapra beetle, but it is one of the most destructive pests of stored grain in the world. According to Wikipedia, "infestations are difficult to control because of the insect's ability to survive without food for long periods, its preference for dry conditions and low-moisture food, and its resistance to many insecticides." The only real protection we in the U.S. have from this beetle are the dedicated men and women charged with the behind-the-scenes task of inspecting luggage and shipped grain from overseas. Last month at DFW airport alone USDA/APHIS intercepted 348 passenger and 45 cargoes with pest evidence. It's amazing to me that with all the international travel that we have managed to keep khapra beetle, and many other pests like it, out of the country so long.
Perhaps it's stories like this that make me not laugh at stories people tell when they brag about how they smuggled something in from a foreign junket. A sad (for me, because I like her as an actor) example of this occurred on the Tonight Show a couple of month ago. Guest Sandra Bullock let slip on the show that she had smuggled holiday sausage into the country as part of a family tradition. Of course it was all great fun, and the audience enjoyed the anecdote, but it left me feeling a little like listening to a joke about the antics of a drunk driver. Pretty funny until you know someone who's an alcoholic, or who has lost a loved one from a drunk driving incident.
So as you're eating your whole grain cereal tomorrow think about those good folks from the Homeland Security agencies and the work they are doing to keep your breakfast affordable and pest free.