Script: Illegally Imported and Smuggled Food Products
Welcome to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode
will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public
health protection through food safety. While we’re on the job, you can rest assured that
your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled,
and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.
Hello, I am with the FSIS Office of Data Integration and Food Protection. We talk a
lot about protecting our food supply from intentional contamination at our domestic
processing and warehouse facilities.
Let’s consider for a moment illegally imported or smuggled food products. What is the
risk that these products may be intentionally contaminated?
FSIS has done an assessment to estimate the amount of illegally imported meat and
poultry products and the vulnerability presented by these products when they do not
enter the United States legally.
The assessment showed that an estimated 43 million pounds of meat and poultry
products may be entering the United States illegally each year.
And while the current primary motive for smuggling is economic, a
terrorist may choose this pathway as it may be easier to contaminate large
amounts of product outside the United States and import it, rather than
infiltrating a processing plant within the United States and contaminating product.
Illegal meat and poultry products have entered the United States through several
pathways, such as:
Recently, a large quantity of melamine-contaminated products entered the United
States. The contamination was due to ingredients that originated in China and was
determined to be an economic adulteration matter. However, this incident shows how
relatively easy it would be for food products intentionally contaminated with a threat
agent like cyanide or ricin to enter the United States. If the contaminated products
had a wide distribution, it could potentially result in a large public health
- Failure-to-present to an FSIS re-inspection facility;
- In-bond shipments;
- Shipments crossing the border from Mexico and Canada into the United States;
- Returned products from the destination country;
- Air cargo; and
- Personal luggage.
We recommend you consider these countermeasures to minimize the risk of receiving
intentionally contaminated products:
Given the large quantity of meat and poultry products that may be illegally
imported or smuggled into the United States each year, it is clear that this
represents a potential way to use food as a weapon to cause fear, illness or death and
hurt our economy.
- Require the use of tamper-evident seals or locks, and document and verify the
- Use a system to track movement of product;
- Use a record-keeping system to document chain of custody – this will aid in
- Have policies and procedures in place for handling suspicious containers and
- Ensure contracted shippers have security measures in place and verify that
they are meeting their contractual obligations;
- Verify that containers are properly secured at all times during transportation
to ensure product integrity; and
- Have reporting procedures in place when product looks suspicious or shows
evidence of tampering.
For additional and recommended countermeasures, go to the FSIS Web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Under “Browse by Subject,” click on “Food Defense & Emergency
Response.” On the right side of this page, click on the “Guidance Materials” button
and this will take you to the page that provides these resources.
“So why is Food Defense important to you?”
It’s about protecting Your Customers, Your Employees, and Your Business.”
Well, that’s all for this episode. We’d like your feedback on our podcast. Or if you
have ideas for future podcasts, send us an e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about food safety, try our web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Thanks for tuning