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450 tamales seized from passenger at Los Angeles airport

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LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of tamales were seized from a passenger trying to smuggle them through Los Angeles International Airport — not because they contained drugs or contraband, but because they contained pork, officials said.

While returning to the U.S. from Mexico on Nov. 2, the passenger, whose name was not released, marked “YES” on the customs declaration that he was carrying food into the country, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday. But when asked if that food contained pork, he said no.

CBP officers checked his luggage and found 450 tamales wrapped in plastic bags, all containing the meat he denied having, the agency said.

“Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever,” said Anne Maricich, CBP Acting Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles.

Bringing in those prohibited foods could have intentional — and unintenional — consequences, like introducing harmful pests and foreign animal diseases, Maricich said.

The traveler was fined $1,000 and the tamales were destroyed, according to CBP.