U.S.-Canada border cracks down on lunch bags

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Canadian truckers who travel across the U.S.-Canada border regularly now are having to check the bologna sandwich and bag of chips they packed for lunch – and it’s not because they’re counting their calories.

Lunch bags now are on the list of items that have to be declared at the U.S. border, according to the Niagara Falls Review. If Canadian truckers don’t declare the precise contents within their sacks, they may be looking at stiff fines, the newspaper reports. Drivers told the Review they’ve been fined, detained and threatened with confiscation of their U.S.-issued identity cards for trying to enter the United States with undeclared food.

A member of the Ontario Trucking Association told the Canadian Press the lunch-bag crackdown is another addition to a list of new U.S. security measures aimed at stopping terrorists, smuggling and threats to the food supply. A U.S. policy posting advises travelers that all agriculture items must be removed from baggage – including meats, fruits and vegetables – to protect U.S. crops and livestock from disease.

“It all started with the Mad Cow problem a couple of years ago,” Doug Switzer, OTA manager of government relations, told the Canadian Press. “But in the last six months, the target has shifted over to fruit and vegetables as well.”

“It’s a money grab, in my opinion,” said John Christian, safety and compliance officer for G. Zavitz Ltd., a Niagara Falls, Ontario-based trucking company. “It’s all about increasing the fines that will pay out another hundred-plus inspectors,” he told the Review.

Kevin Corsaro, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Buffalo, told the Canadian Press that although they will seize beef and other prohibited food items from entering the country, they will not levy fines unless the traveler “purposely hides specific items.”