CINCINNATI— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists in Cincinnati recently confiscated 1,272 pounds of mooncakes and 359 pounds of other prohibited items during Special Operation Over the Moon. In anticipation of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which was celebrated October 1, specialists intensified inspections on freight coming from China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia during the first four days in October.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, celebrates thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and is the second largest festival in China after the Chinese New Year. It has been celebrated in China for more than 3,000 years.
Mooncakes, which are traditionally given to family members and business associates during this holiday, are sweet pastries filled with lotus seed or bean paste and salted duck egg yolks. These pastries are highly valued and can cost hundreds of dollars; however, because of animal diseases endemic to many Southwest Asia countries, egg products from that region pose a high risk to American agriculture. China and most Southwest Asian counties are hosts to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND).
HPAI, historically known as the fowl plague, causes severe respiratory distress leading to organ failure and hemorrhaging, and is highly lethal to domesticated birds. Some strains are equally as dangerous to humans, with a 60% mortality rate. Virulent Newcastle Disease is another acute respiratory disease with a high fatality rate in poultry. This virus is not found in the U.S., and agriculture specialists want to keep it that way.
“Our specialists perform a critical border security role in safeguarding America’s agricultural and natural resources from harmful pests, and plant and animal diseases,” said Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Barbara Hassan.
CBP employs about 2,500 agriculture specialists at ports of entry nationwide. On an average day in 2020 they discovered 314 pests and prevented 4,695 prohibited items from entering the country.
Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie emphasized the important work his specialists do on a daily basis. “Our Cincinnati agriculture specialists consistently display exceptional work ethic and dedication. I’m very proud of their commitment to American agriculture and our mission.”