As the price of eggs continues to rise, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reporting an increase in the number of people trying to to bring eggs illegally imported from Mexico, where prices are lower.
The jump in contraband sightings can best be explained by the high price of eggs in the United States, which climbed 60% in December compared to the previous year. A combination of the deadliest bird flu outbreak in US history, compounded by inflationary pressure and supply chain issues, is to blame for the high prices shoppers are seeing at the supermarket.
This imposes drastic measures: some grocery store chains limit the number of boxes customers can buy.
And some people go so far as to smuggle eggs out of the country, where prices are more affordable, and risk thousands of dollars in fines in the process.
A carton of 30 eggs in Juárez, Mexico, according to Border Report, sells for $3.40. In some parts of the United States, like California, just a dozen eggs now cost as much as $7.37.
Shoppers in El Paso, Texas buy eggs in Juárez because they are “significantly cheaper,” CPB spokeswoman Gerrelaine Alcordo told NPR in a statement.
Most of these people who arrive at international bridges are open about their purchase because they do not realize that eggs are prohibited.
“Typically items are declared at primary inspection and when that happens the person can abandon the product without consequence,” Alcordo said. “There have been a very small number of cases over the last few weeks or so” where eggs were not declared and then later discovered during inspection, Alcordo added.
If the products are discovered, agricultural specialists confiscate and destroy them, which is common for prohibited foods. These individuals are fined $300, but the penalty may be higher for repeat offenders of commercial-sized illegal imports.
In San Diego, customs officer Jennifer De La O tweeted this week about “an increase in the number of eggs intercepted in our ports”. Failure to report agricultural items, she warned, can result in penalties of up to $10,000.
The San Diego field office has recently noticed an increase in the number of eggs intercepted at our ports of entry. As a reminder, uncooked eggs are prohibited from entering Mexico into the United States. Failure to report agricultural products can result in penalties of up to $10,000. pic.twitter.com/ukMUvyKDmL
— Director of Field Operations Jennifer De La O (@DFOsanDiegoCA) January 18, 2023
Bringing poultry, including chickens, and other animals, including their by-products, such as eggs, into the United States is prohibited, according to the CPB.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also prohibits travelers from bringing eggs — except eggshells and mooncakes, in some cases — from other countries due to certain health risks.
Eggs from Mexico have been banned by the USDA since 2012, “based on the diagnosis of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial poultry.”
Angela Kocherga is the news director of member station KTEP.