Chicago, Illinois - Next time you go to pick out your fruits and vegetables, think to yourself, “Am I picking out these items based on color, smell, ripeness or the texture?” For the most part, American consumers are very picky about the look of their fruits and vegetables and will not pay for damaged produce.

Before the fruits, vegetables, and many other items make it to your grocer, and even before the farmer plants their crops, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the first line of defense protecting the consumer.

As passengers return from their overseas excursions, some will try to bring items that can be dangerous to the U.S. agriculture industry.  Restrictions are placed on products to preserve the environment and prevent the introduction of devastating exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases. “Our job is an integral part of saving and protecting farmers and the agriculture in America,” Jessica Anderson, CBP Agricultural Specialist Canine Handler said. “An introduction of Mediterranean Fruit Fly in Florida would be devastating. The introduction of a Cherry Fruit Fly in Wisconsin would be devastating to Dorr County Cherries.”

For consumers, if a pest would infest the orange fields in Florida, how much would orange juice then cost? What if the strawberry fields in California are affected, how much will a pound of strawberries cost? And if the Cherry Fruit Fly would decimate the cherry crop, Anderson said she would be devastated because she wouldn’t be able to enjoy her father’s cherry pie. These possibilities are the exact definition of cause and effect.

CBP employs agricultural canines to stop this trend. These canines are very keen on identifying certain smells.  “My dog is very good at identifying curry leaves. The curry leaves are a member of the citrus family, so I’ll find a lot of citrus disease, like Asian Citrus Psyllid and other insects on curry that is either shipped, or on people who are trying to bring it back with them.”

“It is very important that these insects, the diseases and the livestock diseases stay away from the farms, and the regions where the farms are, to protect the farmer’s profits and protect the consumer,” Anderson continued. “The consumer will not pay for damaged fruit so in most cases it is tossed. If a disease affects the livestock then the livestock is slaughtered, and ultimately the prices of all those goods will go up.”

For more information on what food is admissible visit and check out the Travelers section Know before You Visit.