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Food

Culinary Outlaw Caught At LAX With Hundreds Of 'Illegal' Tamales

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The seized pork tamales (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
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Hundreds of pork tamales were seized and confiscated by customs officers after they were illegally brought to LAX earlier this month.On November 2, a passenger arriving in L.A. from Mexico was found to be carrying an impressive stash of 450 pork tamales wrapped in plastic bags in their luggage, reports CBS LA. The passenger had marked on a customs declaration that they were bringing food into the U.S., but when agriculture specialists from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asked if the tamales contained any pork—forbidden under customs regulations—the passenger apparently said they didn't. But upon further inspection, customs agents discovered that the large batch of tamales were indeed stowing away pork inside, according to the L.A. Times. And thus, their fate was sealed.

Because bringing pork into the U.S. from other countries can carry serious health risks, all 450 of the tamales were seized and destroyed "under CBP supervision."

"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," Anne Maricich, CBP's acting field operations director in Los Angeles, said in a statement. "Every day, CBP agriculture specialists prevent the intentional and unintentional introduction of harmful pests and foreign animal diseases into the U.S."

Tamales are particularly popular around the holidays for many families, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And while the process of making a batch of the cornmeal-based treats is labor intensive and can often take many hours, these particular tamales will not be a part of any celebration. If only the tamales had contained sweet corn or even chicken or beef, according to the Times, they would have been in the clear. Sadly, they were not.

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In addition to losing the stockpile of tamales, the passenger—whose identity has not been released—was also fined $1,000 because customs officials believed the tamales were going to be sold and distributed.

L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold had these sage words for the demise of the illegal tamales: