Feds thwart shipments totaling a million pounds of illegal food

| 1/17/2007

Three federal agencies have combined forces to stop more than a million pounds of tainted food at the Port of Newark since 2005.

The Departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents beginning in late 2005 to inspect sea cargo containers as part of Operation Fowl Play, according to an ICE news release.

The operation seized 50 food shipments totaling more than 1 million pounds of poultry, fowl, meat, pork, and fruits and vegetables.

Federal agents lauded the operation.

"Given the possibility of an Avian Flu outbreak, this operation closed down an illegal importation operation that was a threat to public safety," Susan Mitchell, director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection in New York, said in a press release.

The shipments could have contained illegal drugs or weapons, Kyle Hutchins, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Newark, NJ, said in the release.

"Shutting down illegal operations such as this is a critical mission of ICE because it closes vulnerabilities in the importation process," Hutchins said.

Agents served three search warrants last week in New York City and seized documents related to illegal importation of foodstuffs and merchandise to businesses in Chinatown and Brooklyn.

The Port of Newark was opened in 1915 and has 3 million square feet of warehouse space, roads and direct railways, according to the port Web site.

- By Charlie Morasch, staff writer