Border Agents Save America from Queso Muenster in El Paso: Smuggler Grilled


EL PASO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the Paso Del Norte border crossing in downtown El Paso seized more than 100 pounds of undeclared cheese Sept. 6.

The incident began shortly before 7:00 a.m. when a 2011 GMC Yukon arrived from Mexico. The driver of the vehicle, a female U.S. citizen from Albuquerque, declared 10 wheels of cheese to the CBP officer.

Cheese Wheels from Mexico Seized in El Paso (Contrubuted/CBP)

Cheese Wheels from Mexico Seized in El Paso (Contrubuted/CBP)

The CBP officer located the declared dairy product in the trunk area of the vehicle. As the officer continued the exam an additional 50 wheels of undeclared cheese were discovered hidden under blankets in the back row of the vehicle. Each cheese wheel weighed approximately one kilo.

The driver was assessed a $1,000 civil penalty and released. The contraband cheese was seized and destroyed pursuant to existing guidelines.

“Travelers can import cheese commensurate with personal consumption levels,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Ray Provencio. “A few wheels would generally be fine but not 60. It was undeclared and that amount would be a commercial quantity and additional reporting requirements would apply.”

Milk, cream, ice cream, butter and many cheeses are subject to quota restrictions administered by both CBP and the Department of Agriculture. All dairy products are subject to Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requirements. They are also subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.

Milk and cream may not be imported without a permit from the FDA. The wrappers or cartons for these products must be printed with the country of origin. Finally, all commercial imports of food and beverage products require the Filing of Prior Notice with FDA, and foreign manufacturers and/or distributers of food products must register with the FDA before their goods may be admitted.

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