How Illegal Items Are Found And Destroyed At JFK Airport


[Narrator] About 43,000
international travelers fly in to New York’s John F.
Kennedy Airport every day. By passenger volume,
it’s the US’s largest international
airport of entry. And in just
Terminal 4 alone, that equates to almost
1,000 bags an hour. And in those suitcases,
there’s a lot of stuff, some of which isn’t
allowed into the country, including 120 pounds
of food per day. So what happens
to all those confiscated items
anyway? If you flew in to
JFK in the ’90s, getting something into
the US was a lot easier. But after 9/11,
a conversation started about how to
protect the country from dangerous foods,
drugs, and people. And US Customs and
Border Protection, as it’s known today,
was formed. You’ll generally see two kinds of CBP
officials at airports: officers, like Steve, and agriculture
specialists, like Ginger. Their job is to find,
seize, and destroy millions of items each year that don’t belong
in the United States. It’s a big job, and sometimes
it requires a sidekick, a sidekick on four legs. Steve Robinson:
This is Canine Spike. Look, Spike. He is an 8-year-old
Belgian Malinois. I’ve been his only
handler from day one. He’s trained in narcotics. During the duration
of our career, probably seized over
400 different seizures. [Narrator] CBP officials
like Steve identify high-risk
individuals trying to enter into the US, as well as drugs
and firearms. And because these
are such high stakes, dogs like Spike are
trained in a special way, in what’s called
“passive response,” meaning if they
sniff out drugs, they don’t scratch,
they don’t bark, and they don’t
make a scene. They sit. And if they’re right,
the dog gets rewarded. Robinson: His reward is
actually this toy right here. So he likes to play, so. Ain’t that right? You like to play!
You like to play! Yes you do! Yes you do! Let me see it! Let me see it! Here at the port,
we’ve caught up to 16 keys of ecstasy recently. [Narrator] Narcotics
are then seized and sent to be incinerated. The incinerator’s
location is kept a secret, as a matter of
national security. Now, pretty much
everyone knows that narcotics aren’t
allowed through US borders, but actually, drugs aren’t
the most commonly seized item at JFK. Food is. When a regular traveler
arrives in the US, they’re required to declare any food items
they’re bringing in, or face up to a $1,000
fine for the first offense. These items aren’t taken
because agents want to eat your yummy Spanish
ham or Caribbean mangos. It’s because
agents are responsible for protecting
American agriculture from any foreign
pests or diseases that could affect
our livestock or crops. And that’s where
agricultural specialists like Ginger come in. Ginger Perrone: Everything
gets destroyed to protect against
that pest risk. We are protecting the country’s
agricultural interests. We’re protecting
against bioterrorism, where someone
could intentionally try to bring in items to wreak havoc
in this country. [Narrator] Foreign bugs
hitchhiking in luggage have wreaked havoc
in the US before. Florida’s orange and
grapefruit growers lost $2.9 billion
from 2007 to 2014 thanks to the
Asian citrus psyllid. And since being introduced
into the US in the ’90s, the Asian
longhorned beetle has ravaged
hardwood trees. Eradication efforts
between 1997 and 2010 cost more than
$373 million. James Armstrong:
In our country, we go into
the grocery store and the food
is always there. We don’t have to
look at it for holes or check if it’s got
some disease on it. It always looks great, so
we get kind of spoiled, and we don’t
really understand the importance
of protecting that. [Narrator] So it’s
crucial that even a single stowaway orange is
found and confiscated. But with 34 million annual
international passengers to and from JFK, going
through each of those bags can seem pretty
impossible. For humans, that is. Luckily, they’ve got
a little help from the Beagle Brigade. This four-legged
officer is Biscuit, and like Spike, Biscuit is
trained in passive response. But Biscuit’s trained to sniff
out food rather than drugs. Sal DiSpigna:
They actually learn. They start out with
five target odors, and then over the
years he’ll expand, and they retire
with sometimes, like, 150 odors that they know. [Narrator] And Biscuit’s
pretty good at sniffing. These beagles have an estimated 90%
accuracy rate. Armstrong: Watching your
dog sit on three grapes in a Samsonite
hardside suitcase is just incredible. Scientists say their nose is 1,000
times stronger than ours. And they prove it
every single day. [Narrator] Once Biscuit
sniffs out an item, the passenger in question
and their bags go to Ginger, who will X-ray and
search the luggage. Perrone: OK, these are
both your bags, correct? OK, did you pack
everything yourselves? You packed your
bags yourself? OK. [Narrator] Ginger
unzips the bag and searches
each one by hand. And if she finds something
that’s not allowed, it’s seized and held
in temporary bins. Perrone: This is very
common from that region. Once you open it all up,
you have grape leaves. These are
horse-meat sausages. This is another very
good example of what we get
very frequently, especially in
the springtime: This is a plant that
they’re planning on bringing here to grow. So anything for
propagation has additional
entry requirements. So this is two families’
worth from one flight. [Narrator] JFK disposes
of the contraband food in one of two ways: the grinder, or
the incinerator. Ginger will bag up
the seized items and label them based on
their final destination. Perrone: So we’re gonna
go walk this bin, nice and full from those
two passengers, down to our
contraband room. [Narrator] This is the room where illicit food
meets its end. Perrone: This is our
grinding machine. This is what we’ll generally
use for fruits, vegetables, that kind of commodities. It is called the
“Muffin Monster.” [Narrator] But
before Ginger can send a piece of fruit
down the Muffin Monster, she cuts it open, squishes
it, and inspects it. She’s looking for
evidence of diseases, insertion points for insects,
and exit points for larvae. If she finds a little
bug, like this one, she neutralizes
the pest risk and sends it to the US
Department of Agriculture for further investigation. Now it’s back to
the Muffin Monster: 120 pounds of food
are grinded up each day from arriving
international passengers. Avocados, mangos,
and citrus are among the most
common fruits that end up in the grinder. Perrone: We do get messy. It’s important to
dispose of it properly. I love to eat, as much
as everybody else. I am a big fan of food. But I know the importance
of making sure that what we seized, because
of established risks, is disposed of properly to prevent it from
causing problems. [Narrator] So the next
time you’ve got an orange tucked into your luggage, declare it, and
let experts like Ginger decide if it’s admissible. And leave the serrano
ham in Spain, because Biscuit will find it.

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100 thoughts on “How Illegal Items Are Found And Destroyed At JFK Airport

  1. https://abcnews.go.com/US/tsa-fails-tests-latest-undercover-operation-us-airports/story?id=51022188
    I'll just leave this right here…

  2. Some terrorist enters the scanning area

    Gaurd: what's that?

    Terrorist: a gun

    Gaurd: OK, what about that

    Terrorist: it's my airplane food sir

    Gaurds: give me, no foods allowed

    Terrorist smiling and happy

  3. What an example this comment section is of how provincial and ignorant Americans are about travel. The only countries in the world that don't take protective steps with food are those that have nothing to lose. The ignorant seem to think that America is alone in protecting its crops and its people.

  4. The truth, entertaining food from different (Food) does no harm (but) the corporate interest , we get enough poisoning from Mosato . This is disgusting Bla Bla she says with they told her to say and with a smile The tourist eat those food in the country and come back fine . Its the corporations big one who pay off to not allow entering not only food but other stuff as well. They are the ones who want to ripe off the Americans not the outsiders , only if they bring in the stuff for their profit.

  5. That bastard beetle made it all the way to vancouver island, Canada!!!! It is a real pain in the ass let me tell you!

  6. couldnt we be using the confiscated food to help end hunger in other parts of the world? i know that other countries might take the same precausions but it makes me so sad knowing that thousands of people starve and we have food to throw away.

  7. Yes because on 911 the terrorists use avocados and plantains to plant the bombs.. nice job fats why dont you try eating some of those fresh fruits and vegetables yourself. You call your self a expert. That's a joke right.

  8. It's sad to see so much food get wasted when so many are dying due to hunger even though they mean it for security

  9. People need to stop being dumb..stop bringing stuff to this country that are potentially a risk to our society..its common sense..use it we are adults and be smarter on what you bring..also be honest and let the professionals check it to see if its a risk

  10. They took my beer opener in the airport bcs it looked like a butterfly knife it wasnt sharp it just looked like a butterfly knife whitout knife

  11. 9-11: how to protect the country .. from dangerous foods? America won't stand for fruits and vegetables. I notice there weren't any twinkies being confiscated. — I weep for the future.

  12. so you mean my drugs dont get taken by the airport staff? wtf I thought at least someone else would smoke it 🙁

  13. Spanish ham!!!! Oh HELL no!!! Let that stuff come in. U know those agents’ eyes light up when they see that😍

  14. Does anyone besides me appreciate the dogs that do this life saving and potentially dangerous work? its a miracle that PETA isnt protesting.

  15. Me: has a water bottle and Asian glock

    Officer: Sorry we’re going to have to confiscate that water bottle. For security reasons

  16. The chance of disease in actual food is pretty low, so imagine how much food they're wasting. There are actual starving people out there and they're just disposing of " threats"

  17. These comments are moronic. A bio hazard is much more of a threat than any narcotic or weapon. One can destroy a few lives, the other can destroy the country.

  18. Since 911 eh? Can’t half see that it was orchestrated so the gov could bring in all this bullshit to control us further!!

  19. Bull… the narcotics and drugs seized are resold they are not destroyed and this process is not for national security it is for those who profit here in the US. and that is why the location of where they are supposedly destroyed kept a secret. Everything anymore is supposed to be for National Security and is either classified or top secret. This is so "WE THE PEOPLE" won't know the truth. Remember it has always been the bad guys who weaponize themselves to protect themselves from those who stand for what is right when they do come into the truth.

  20. Wasting all kinds of foods because of asinine policies, stipulations, bureaucratic “laws” implemented by rogue governments: pathetic.
    Brainwashed masses who are such simpletons to this ridiculous system to actually give this a thumb’s up: even more pathetic.

  21. The only fruits and veggies they want you to eat are ones grown in this country that are genetically modified not to be healthy. This country is a joke.

  22. You ppl are arrogant. Flies and bugs can reach there by any means if nature wants it to. They don't need to fly in planes and pass through airports etc etc lol. It's kinda funny though n definitely waste of food too.

  23. avacados don't even make it on an international flight. When i was 18 i brought over 4 avacados into the US from israel. i guess the dry air on the air plane dried them out, cause they were all shriveled up when i took them out my bag. into the trash they went. Back then i didn't know the reason's of why we couldn't bring in outside food.

  24. Imagine spending years getting the perfect fruit/vegetable like its perfectly round and juicy and you are taking it to the us to show people and go to contests for it and they just steal it and grind it up.

  25. I was detained leaving Aruba by our agents. had 2 sandwiches I'd made at the hotel prior to leaving utilizing items from the commercial grocery store across the street. the line was horrendous and I could have just had lunch there but didn't. Thinking a 'real piece of meat' like something large I didn't disclose them on the written or verbal questions. Almost free and Mr Leonzal…. Taken back to inspection and see a poor lady having her families flight lunch taken and tossed. I then asked the "kid" (I swear he barely looked 20) as he was talking to me, "you mean these?" YES. I was let go with a warning and advised if the items were had been in sealed factory packages (same for the lady)we could have taken them through to make on the other side or in the plane as they could see they were legit and from proper point of processing. Who'd think 2 pcs of bologna, cheese and buns would destroy a country. Arubua must be a tough duty station for U.S. Agents lol

  26. Progressive news program showcasing one out of shape women amongst thousands of harder working fit men putting this all together to keep America safe.

    I'm sorry if safeguarding American biodiaspora depends on Ginger I feel sorry for you guys.

  27. How many times have you 'do we read of others' coming back off vacation to unpack & find bugs, snakes, lizards, beetles spiders etc., in your luggage?! How many simply do not get seen but just walk off 'invade' survive & make it?! Why I take contact insect killer spray on vacation with me. Not only to spray around my bed & room to kill bed bugs etc., but at end of vacation & before I pack I spray the inside & the outside of my case. Your clothes are dirty, are going to be laundered when you arrive home; so spray away! This also stops you bringing bed bugs etc., into your home. Can't remember which travel show I saw this tip on but I have been doing it for decades now.

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