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The Newest Contraband on the Mexican Border: Eggs

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From California to Texas, border agents are increasingly seizing a surprising sort of contraband from Mexico: eggs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had greater than 2,000 encounters with people attempting to bring eggs into the US from Mexico between Nov. 1 and Jan. 17, an agency spokesman said. In the identical 11-week period a yr earlier, there have been about 460 such encounters.

The rise comes as the value of eggs in the US has surged, driven partly by an outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu, that was detected last February.

Roger Maier, the Customs and Border Protection spokesman, said in an email on Tuesday that the agency had noted a rise in people attempting to bring eggs to the US from Mexico, where “they’re significantly cheaper.”

The two,002 encounters involving eggs that occurred between Nov. 1 and Jan. 17 were reported by field offices in San Diego; Tucson, Ariz.; Laredo, Texas; and El Paso, they usually don’t represent the entire variety of eggs seized.

The largest increase was in San Diego, where the encounters jumped to 1,077 from 230, a rise of 368 percent.

Mr. Maier didn’t say what number of eggs were seized in these encounters. In an email, he said that “this isn’t necessarily smuggling but reasonably increased encounters of individuals traveling with eggs.”

Customs and Border Protection officials in San Diego and El Paso issued warnings on Twitter last week to remind those that they weren’t allowed to bring uncooked eggs from Mexico into the US.

The agency said in a news release that there had been a “large increase” in the quantity of prohibited food items, including eggs and raw poultry meat, brought in from Mexico.

This increase in egg contraband coincides with a pointy rise in egg prices in the US. The common price for a dozen large Grade A eggs rose to $4.25 from $1.92 between January and December 2022, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At grocery stores in Mexico last week, the wholesale price for a kilogram of eggs, which is greater than a dozen jumbo eggs, was between 30 and 51 pesos, or between about $1.59 and $2.71, based on figures collected by the Mexican government.

Avian influenza, which has been cited as an element behind the sharp rise in egg prices, is a highly contagious virus that is usually fatal to chickens. The outbreak has affected greater than 58 million birds in a whole lot of economic and backyard flocks, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By the top of 2022, greater than 43 million egg-laying hens had died from the disease or had been culled to forestall the virus from spreading, based on the department.

Customs and Border Protection said in a news release that the specter of avian influenza underscored the importance of laws that bar people from bringing agricultural items across the border.

“Reducing the outbreak’s impact is of paramount importance, and stopping the spread, including the prohibition of importing items that will spread the disease from other countries,” the agency said.

These laws are in place because agricultural items, similar to plants and animals, can harbor pests and spread diseases that harm the environment, crops and livestock.

People entering the US are required to declare to officials in the event that they have items including meat, fruit, vegetables, animals and seeds of their luggage or vehicle. If border officers find some of these items, they usually haven’t been declared, travelers can face civil penalties of as much as $1,000. The fines are much higher if the items are found to be intended for industrial use.

Mr. Maier, the Customs and Border Protection spokesman, urged travelers to declare food and agricultural items, even those they imagine are allowed, to avoid potential penalties.

Individuals who declare that they’ve crossed the border with eggs “can abandon the product without consequence,” Mr. Maier said. Customs and Border Protection agricultural specialists collect and destroy the eggs, he said.

Mr. Maier said that in a “very small variety of cases within the last week or so,” eggs weren’t declared and discovered during an inspection. The people implicated in those cases were issued a $300 civil penalty, he said. Fines could be higher for repeat offenders or for individuals who usher in eggs to sell commercially, he said.

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