By EMILY A. PALM
A pound of buffalo sausage, a Peruvian orange and a slice of a pepperoni pizza all share a future in a fiery furnace.
While en route to Skagway from Canada these items did not make the agricultural cut and entered a path that ends at the Skagway incinerator.
Their similarly fated brethren include out-of-season fruits without U.S. labels, potatoes with peels from areas of Canada infested with golden nematode, beef and dog food.
At the U.S. Port of Entry on the Klondike Highway, customs officers ask every traveler if they have any grocery products. The owner hands over items that fall short of the requirements and fills out a form entitled, Notice of abandonment and assent to forfeiture of prohibited or seized merchandise and certificate of destruction.
Since people volunteer the items, the word seize is not part of the procedures nomenclature. About 99 percent of people are accepting of the confiscation, said Port Director Boyd Worley of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
On occasion someone will say, You @$$#*!!%, youre going to eat that, he said, adding, we wouldnt jeopardize our jobs for a $10 steak.
In their final stage of the confiscation process, these items rest on the conveyor belt before incineration. Yes, even the slice of pepperoni pizza could not slip through the border. EAP
Since May the office has confiscated almost a ton of prohibited items, said Worley. During the high travel month of June, the office collected 130 forms. As word of banned items spread, the number of forfeitures dropped in July to 57. R.V. parks and campgrounds informing people has been a big help, said Worley.
The Skagway port of entry began strictly enforcing the USDA prohibitions in March, when Mia Kirk of the USDA office in Anchorage came and taught a 2-day class that covered regulations on hunter-harvested meats, along with information about Asian gypsy moths and fruit flies.
Once the items enter the hands of the customs officers, a precise tracking process begins. The forfeiture forms get stapled to the various meats and fruits (many still in the crinkly white shopping bags from the grocery stores, each ironically emblazoned with a red italicized Thank You!).
The foods then wait in a frozen purgatory. A back room of the U.S. Customs building houses a large icebox with a sign on its door that reads, seized/abandoned perishable material freezer: **for incineration only**
Once a week Worley loads up his truck with the frozen bags and heads to the Skagway incinerator to drop off the items and complete the certificate of destruction.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently lifted the ban on poultry and eggs, dont expect to bring in steaks from Whitehorse anytime soon. As long as theres a hint of a possibility of mad cow, theyll continue, said Worley.