A significant threat to the health of the U.S. livestock herd is smuggled meat products. This seemingly minor infringement could be an avenue for such diseases at food-and-mouth disease or African swine fever to enter the United States. An over worked and understaffed border patrol and customs agency only adds to the challenge of keeping this contraband out.

Foreign travelers and the immigrant population are largely the culprits in the concern as certain specialty meat products are coveted gifts and special-occasion tastes of home.

Recently, New York state regulators stepped up enforcement on markets that sell illegal meats and other food products, mostly to immigrant customers. Of course, this is significant because New York is a shipping portal and a hub of immigrant activity.

The state's Division of Food Safety is inspecting warehouses that receive imported products. In 2006's first nine months, state inspectors seized 1.6 million pounds of food, destroying about 81 percent of it. In 2005, the state seized only 976,076 pounds. So far this year, 72 times the inspectors closed up a shop, while that number was 66 times last year.

Insuring compliance with the state's food safety regulations is a challenge in New York city's ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Immigrant shopkeepers find a market for native food products and may import and sell food items from inappropriate and non-inspected sources. Also, neighborhoods tend to support their own, and are not likely to cooperate with officials, making the task challenging.

This is a tip in the iceberg, but it's encouraging to see nonetheless.

Source: American Association of Swine Veterinarians, The Boston Globe