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U. S. Border Patrol Seizes 230 Pounds of Cheese

Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2013 08:06 PM

“Individuals can import personal quantities of cheese – something in the 10 pound range,” said Joane Thale-Lembo, CBP Santa Teresa Port Director. “This shipment certainly exceeded that quantity and was therefore seized and destroyed.”

http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_...

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  1. waxyjax RE: Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2013 09:38 PM

    what a waste of cheese

    16 Replies
    1. re: waxyjax
      Melanie Wong RE: waxyjax Jan 10, 2013 12:31 AM

      I agree. But what was of greater interest to me was to get a sense of what border agents consider a personal amount of cheese to bring into the country.

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        sunshine842 RE: Melanie Wong Jan 10, 2013 02:16 AM

        10 pounds is still hella lotta cheese.

        (I would imagine that it would be marginally different, too, if were 15 pounds of assorted cheeses, each in a fairly small quantity....)

        1. re: sunshine842
          Delucacheesemonger RE: sunshine842 Jan 11, 2013 08:37 AM

          When l returned to the states in December, l brought @ 18 kilos, about 40 pounds. Declared it, no one looked, no one cared.

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
            sunshine842 RE: Delucacheesemonger Jan 11, 2013 09:28 AM

            yeah -- it's 10 pounds for THAT agent on the day of the interview.

            Next week, when he's had a fight with his wife, it'll be 6.

            Next month, after he's gotten a raise, it'll be 50.

            You. just. never. know.

            1. re: sunshine842
              g
              GH1618 RE: sunshine842 Jan 11, 2013 09:53 AM

              That just isn't true. The limit for personal use is defined by regulation. It's actually 5 kg or 11 lb:

              http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/factshee...

            2. re: Delucacheesemonger
              g
              GH1618 RE: Delucacheesemonger Jan 11, 2013 09:58 AM

              Then the agents weren't being diligent. Did you declare it on your customs form?

              1. re: GH1618
                Delucacheesemonger RE: GH1618 Jan 11, 2013 01:14 PM

                Dollar value not weight.

          2. re: Melanie Wong
            g
            GH1618 RE: Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2013 09:42 AM

            The agents don't decide such things. They merely enforce the regulations which have been adopted. They have to apply them fairly.

            1. re: GH1618
              sunshine842 RE: GH1618 Jan 11, 2013 09:45 AM

              Not only do they decide the interpretation of the law on the spot, the enforcement varies widely from day to day, inspector to inspector, and entry port to entry port.

              (20 years of international sales, international logistics, and international travel tends to learn ya fast on stuff like this. What breezes through customs today gets held up or confiscated next week.)

              1. re: sunshine842
                g
                GH1618 RE: sunshine842 Jan 11, 2013 10:08 AM

                Certainly things get through which should be confiscated. The inspectors cannot be perfect, especially when travelers are dishonest in their declarations. The more important question is whether customs agents will confiscate something which is allowed under the regulations. I doubt there is much of this in US Customs.

                1. re: GH1618
                  sunshine842 RE: GH1618 Jan 11, 2013 10:42 AM

                  then you don't travel internationally much, and you don't move much international freight.

                  It happens all the time. -- both confiscating that which should have been allowed, and allowing what should have been confiscated.

                  I agree that they *should* implement the rules consistently and fairly -- but it just ain't that way.

                  (and don't get me started on TSA)

                  1. re: sunshine842
                    g
                    GH1618 RE: sunshine842 Jan 11, 2013 02:13 PM

                    Perhaps, but there is nothing wrong here. The personal limit is 11 lbs of cheese and they found more than 200 lbs. They should have confiscated it and they did.

                    1. re: GH1618
                      sunshine842 RE: GH1618 Jan 12, 2013 12:36 AM

                      No argument there.

                      1. re: sunshine842
                        j
                        janeh RE: sunshine842 Jan 12, 2013 02:58 PM

                        Anyone remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy's bringing a big provolone-like cheese back from Europe? As I recall, to avoid paying duty when she gets to the U.S., she tries to disguise it as a baby, learns that she'll have to pay for the baby to travel and ends up eating the cheese.......very complicated!

          3. re: waxyjax
            paulj RE: waxyjax Jan 13, 2013 01:04 PM

            http://206.241.31.146/ImageCache/cgov...

            What kind of cheese is that? Looks like a fresh Mexican 'queso blanco', in individual unlabeled plastic bags. The only way this could be for 'personal consumption' is if the guy was throwing a large party for his extended family. More likely it was intended for his 'carniceria'.

            1. re: paulj
              Veggo RE: paulj Jan 13, 2013 01:40 PM

              I agree it is most likely harmless queso blanco intended for re-sale. But our always vigilant Border Patrol spared us from the possibility of IEQ's (Improvised Explosive Quesadillas)...

          4. h
            HillJ RE: Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2013 12:07 PM

            While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            What an expensive lesson for the "cheese" category!

            5 Replies
            1. re: HillJ
              sunshine842 RE: HillJ Jan 13, 2013 12:19 PM

              CBP is indeed focused on anti-terrorism, but the FDA has active inspectors at major borders as well -- and they have Labs and Shepherds behind the scene to sniff out contraband -- the adorable little beagles in their little green coats are to make sure you're not carrying in agricultural bad guys in your coat, purse, or carryon luggage.

              1. re: sunshine842
                h
                HillJ RE: sunshine842 Jan 13, 2013 12:27 PM

                suns, my bro is a DEA guy @ the airport...I've heard enough stories to last a lifetime.

                1. re: HillJ
                  sunshine842 RE: HillJ Jan 13, 2013 12:53 PM

                  I'm only a standard-issue schlepper - and I've seen enough stuff first-hand to make me really not want to know what he's seen!

                2. re: sunshine842
                  tcamp RE: sunshine842 Jan 17, 2013 06:42 AM

                  The dogs are CBP "agents" enforcing USDA regs about importation of food/agricultural products. Until 2003, APHIS did inspections.

                  Interesting history of Animal and Plant Health Inspections here: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/history/...

                3. re: HillJ
                  paulj RE: HillJ Jan 13, 2013 12:57 PM

                  Customs was around long before terrorism became an issue. In the early days of the USA, customs duties were the primary source of income for the federal government. The Coast Guard was set up primarily to counter smuglers.

                  "The Coast Guard's official history began on 4 August 1790 when President George Washington signed the Tariff Act that authorized the construction of ten vessels, referred to as "cutters," to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling.... "
                  http://www.uscg.mil/history/

                4. TraderJoe RE: Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2013 12:10 PM

                  So much for the idea of stuffing a wheel of parm in the carry on. ;-(

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: TraderJoe
                    c
                    cheesemaestro RE: TraderJoe Jan 13, 2013 01:28 PM

                    A wheel of Parm weighs 80 to 90 pounds, not exactly something I'd want to lift up to the overhead bin on an airplane. :-)

                    1. re: cheesemaestro
                      h
                      HillJ RE: cheesemaestro Jan 13, 2013 01:34 PM

                      I would imagine the magnificent perfume of a 'now' warm wheel in the overhead would invite hunger pains cabinwide--not exactly a silent cheese.

                      1. re: HillJ
                        sunshine842 RE: HillJ Jan 13, 2013 02:16 PM

                        oh, you don't want to know how bad a 6-ounce wedge of Brie can smell up an entire cabin. Even in the factory packaging, wrapped in foil, encased in a plastic bag, rolled into a sweater, and zipped into a backpack.

                        People were looking at me like I had a body in there. A rather badly decayed body.

                        I love my French cheeses, but dayum.

                        Next time it's double freezer ziplocs, and in my checked luggage.

                        (my fromager was closed for a family emergency, so I had to buy it at the airport on the way out)

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          Veggo RE: sunshine842 Jan 13, 2013 02:21 PM

                          You tease, you. I love that stinky brie.

                          1. re: Veggo
                            sunshine842 RE: Veggo Jan 13, 2013 02:24 PM

                            you might not have loved it quite as much, at least for a while!

                            It was worth it, though, to see how happy our friend in Miami was when I handed it to her.
                            .

                          2. re: sunshine842
                            h
                            HillJ RE: sunshine842 Jan 13, 2013 02:46 PM

                            LOL, another delicious example. My son returned from Roubaix with some remarkable stashes...I think we could smell his arrival from the incoming station...the guy with the smile that said, made it with goodies in tow, Mom...was breathtaking.

                            1. re: sunshine842
                              g
                              GH1618 RE: sunshine842 Jan 13, 2013 07:44 PM

                              Take another ziploc and fill it with ice, to accompany the cheese (or whatever). I was advised not to take ice through security, but once inside, it is easy to get your icepack refilled.

                              1. re: GH1618
                                sunshine842 RE: GH1618 Jan 13, 2013 11:25 PM

                                no need -- if it's cold and packed into your checked luggage, insulated by clothing and in the very cold temperatures of the hold, it'll be fine.

                                1. re: sunshine842
                                  g
                                  GH1618 RE: sunshine842 Jan 14, 2013 08:37 AM

                                  I was thinking of carry-on. You can't add ice to you checked baggage after going through security.

                                  1. re: GH1618
                                    sunshine842 RE: GH1618 Jan 14, 2013 09:08 AM

                                    but it will stay colder in the hold baggage - because the hold is not heated, and the ambient temperature down there is significantly colder than the ambient temperature in the cabin...thus it will, nestled into my clothing as mega insulation in a very cold environment, stay far colder than it will stay with lighter packing in my backpack in a heated cabin.

                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                      g
                                      GH1618 RE: sunshine842 Jan 14, 2013 11:21 AM

                                      No doubt, but my practice is to travel light without checking baggage, whenever possible. My last trip required bringing back a mess of smoked oysters and fish, which I wanted iced due to the length of time I was in transit.

                                      1. re: GH1618
                                        sunshine842 RE: GH1618 Jan 14, 2013 12:26 PM

                                        it's nice if you can do it -- but when you live on a different continent from friends and family, it's rarely possible.

                                        (and with a bum back, NOT schlepping a huge, heavy carryon is a big deal)

                        2. re: TraderJoe
                          psb RE: TraderJoe Jan 16, 2013 08:14 PM

                          ""It's no fun/Being an illegal Parmesan."

                        3. Josh RE: Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2013 12:33 PM

                          And yet if I wanted to buy 230 lbs. of Velveeta it'd be no problem at all.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Josh
                            sunshine842 RE: Josh Jan 13, 2013 12:56 PM

                            of course.

                            Buying something within a set of borders isn't ever an issue.

                            Velveeta isn't cheese, though -- if you look at the package it says "pasteurized processed cheese food" -- that's not cheese.

                            Imported cheese can be suspect because of pathogens present in the milk.....

                            ....and these guys got busted because they were supposed to pay duty on it at the border.

                            Your 230 pounds of noncheese purchased and used/consumed in the country of origin isn't even remotely suspicious in any way.

                          2. law_doc89 RE: Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2013 02:29 PM

                            Wasn't it the Cheese Enforcement Agency?

                            http://www.jasperfforde.com/specops/c...

                            1. DiningDiva RE: Melanie Wong Jan 13, 2013 03:53 PM

                              The San Ysidro port of entry (San Diego/Tijuana) is the busiest land port of entry in the world.

                              The 3rd most frequently confisgated item behind drugs and people (i.e. human smuggling) is cheese. They routinely confisgate thousands of pounds a year. Some of it is for personal consumption, some of it for commerical purposes, i.e. resale at swap meets in SoCal. Other than being beyond the allowable weight for cheese, the other reason it is often confisgated is because it is queso blanco/queso fresco and was made in unknown circumstances, often with raw and/or unpastuerized milk. For CBP any fresh cheese is a potential lysteriosis threat, and it does, on occassion, test positive for lysteriosis.

                              Interestingly enough, there is a fabulous cheese shop in the Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana that will vacuum seal (and label) any of their cheeses for border crossers. No must, no fuss, no getting busted.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: DiningDiva
                                deet13 RE: DiningDiva Jan 15, 2013 10:59 PM

                                "Interestingly enough, there is a fabulous cheese shop in the Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana that will vacuum seal (and label) any of their cheeses for border crossers. No must, no fuss, no getting busted."

                                All they need is a large catapult or a trebuchet on the roof and some sucker -I mean a selfless volunteer- willing to catch it on the norte side of the border.

                                I'd actually pay good money to see them "export" a few hundred lbs of prime washed rind cheese across the border in said fashion...

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