As the U.S.-Mexico border community prepares for the upcoming All Souls Day (Día de los Muertos) holiday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials advise the traveling public that certain agricultural items used in holiday decorations are prohibited from entry into the U.S. These items can carry harmful pests and disease that, if introduced, can be devastating to America’s agricultural industry.
“We want to remind travelers not to bring orange jasmine or other prohibited meat and fruits from Mexico, and why it is important that they not bring these items into the U.S.,” said Pete Flores, CBP director of field operations for San Diego Field Office. “We all have the personal responsibility of keeping our country free from harmful pests and diseases.”
Many border community families celebrate Día de los Muertos by constructing altares (altars/memorials) to commemorate the lives of loved ones or famous persons who have passed on. Marigolds are frequently used to decorate the memorials. Marigolds are allowed from Mexico if they are found free of pests and disease after inspection by a CBP agriculture specialist.
Ornamental greenery such as murraya (commonly called “orange jasmine”) is also used to decorate memorials, but this greenery is prohibited, as it is a host plant for the Asian citrus psyllid, a vector that transmits bacteria that cause huanglongbing. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, huanglongbing is one of the world’s most serious citrus diseases, and there is no known cure for this plant disease which kills citrus trees and greatly reduces citrus production.
Additionally, pork and certain fruits from Mexico are prohibited. Prohibited fruits include oranges, tangerines, sweet limes, mangos, and pomegranates. Oranges, mangos, and pomegranates are host materials for exotic fruit flies. Exotic fruit flies are among the most destructive and feared pests of fruits and vegetables around the world.
Failure to declare prohibited agricultural items also can result in fines. Penalties for personal importations of undeclared, prohibited agricultural items can run as high as $1,000.
The traveling public can learn more about prohibited fruits, vegetables, plant and animal products, and other prohibited items by consulting the “Know Before You Go” guide or the list of top 10 travelers’ tips.