Baltimore customs officials halt shipment of rice infested with highly invasive beetle

BALTIMORE - Larvae of one of the world’s most destructive and invasive insects were found in a 43,000 pound shipment of rice that reached the Port of Baltimore Wednesday.

Customs and Border Protection officials sealed off the container and ordered the importer to either destroy the 1,066-carton shipment or re-export it. The importer opted to re-export the contaminated goods, according to a release.

Officials said no live larvae were found in the container, although the Khapra Beetle remains the only pest that Customs and Border Protection can take regulatory action against even if the insects are dead.

 “The Khapra Beetle is considered one of the world's most destructive insect pests of grains, cereals and stored foods,” according to the release.

"Khapra Beetle is one of the most invasive insects CBP agriculture specialists encounter," Dianna Bowman, CBP Area Port Director for Baltimore added. "And we take our mission to intercept these destructive pests and protect America's agricultural industry very seriously."

Samples were collected from the infested container and shipped to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for confirmation.

More from the release about the Khapra Beetle:

The Khapra Beetle is labeled a 'dirty feeder' because it damages more grain than it consumes, and because it contaminates grain with body parts and hairs. These contaminants may cause gastrointestinal irritation in adults and especially sickens infants.  Khapra Beetles can also tolerate insecticides and fumigants, and can survive for long periods of time without food.

The pesky insect once cost American taxpayers $11 million in 1953 to eradicate an infestation in California. Adjusted for inflation, that total would cost taxpayers about $90 million, according to the release. 

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