WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2014 – USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a friendly reminder for Americans who plan to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: Don’t bring any invasive species back with you.

“Check with us before bringing agricultural products back home,” the agency, which oversees the country’s animal and plant health and welfare, said in an email blast to its stakeholders yesterday. The Winter Olympics begin in Sochi today.

A number of Russian products must, by law, be inspected by U.S. agents before they are introduced in the United States.  Russian fresh meat, for example, is prohibited from importation in the U.S., partly because American regulators have not determined Russia is free of foot-and-mouth disease. Other Russian cooked and packaged meats are still prohibited or restricted from entry.

APHIS also warns that illegally imported fruits and vegetables could also prove dangerous to the U.S. food supply. Garlic dry bulbs from Russia, for example, must be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates because some of the product contains so-called garlic weevils (Brachycerus spp.) or moths native to southern and eastern Europe (Dyspessa ulula).

Many other fresh fruits and vegetables must not only undergo cold treatment to ensure they are free of pests before entering the country, but also carry a permit informing inspectors of their status.

If an Olympics spectator (or athlete) does choose to bring agricultural products back from Sochi, APHIS asks that Americans declare their goods to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at their ports of entry.

Failing to declare agricultural items costs first time offenders $300, and second time offenders $500.


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