Hundreds of tamales were seized by customs agents at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month, federal officials said Wednesday.
Stuffed inside the 450 leaf-wrapped treats were not drugs, weapons or other contraband — only pork meat, which customs agents say could potentially introduce foreign animal diseases into the U.S.
The bust was made Nov. 2 during an inspection of plastic bags belonging to a passenger who had arrived to LAX from Mexico. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the traveler declared bringing food into the U.S., but did not disclose that it contained pork meat products.
A customs agriculture specialist inspected the traveler's bags and found the tamales filled with pork. The tamales were seized and destroyed, and the traveler was given a $1,000 fine for commercial activity with the intent to distribute, officials said.
"Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever," said Anne Maricich, the CBP acting director of field operations in Los Angeles.
According to the CBP, customs agents in the 2014 fiscal year intercepted more than 1.6 million animal by-product, meat and plant-soil quarantine products nationwide.