Lawmakers Ask USDA for Update on Drug Smuggling in Food Imports

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the Agriculture Department for an update on what it’s doing to investigate drug smuggling in food imports from Mexico.

Twenty lawmakers made the request in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tim Vilsack on Wednesday. The letter, spearheaded by Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, is also signed by 16 Republican House members from Florida and Georgia. Two Democrats signed the letter: Reps. Al Lawson of Florida and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

“As you know, drug smuggling in food shipments from Mexico is systemic, and such cases are not isolated incidents,” they wrote. “Further, fruit and vegetable growers in Mexico are routinely extorted by drug cartels. 

“In February, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection [CBP] seized $2.9 million of methamphetamines, which were found in a shipment of onions from Mexico. This is just one among many instances of deadly drugs being found in produce shipments from Mexico.

“The dire issue of drug smuggling in food is a matter of food safety and security. We urge the [Agriculture Department] to follow through with its commitments to analyze data of seizures of narcotics at the border to understand if produce imports are enabling criminal activity. We look forward to reviewing the Department’s findings.”

CBS News reported in February that authorities seized about 1,336 pounds of methamphetamines disguised as onions in Southern California.

CBS News said officers with the border patrol officers had inspected a tractor trailer carrying a shipment indicated as onions.

An officer referred the driver and the items for a “more intense examination.” A dog, part of a canine team screening the tractor trailer, alerted authorities to the shipment.


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