Nova Scotia·Video

'We see a lot of hams': Halifax airport travellers sure like their illegal pork

People coming into Canada's airports regularly bring restricted foods with them, but for some reason, travellers arriving at the Halifax airport often carry pork products.

Popular items confiscated include 'dried, cured sausage, a lot of pâté​​​​​​​s and different things like that'

'We see a lot of hams': Halifax airport travellers sure like their illegal pork

3 years ago
Duration 2:13
People coming into Canada's airports regularly bring restricted foods with them, but for some reason, travellers arriving at the Halifax airport often carry pork products.

Many Nova Scotians and others travelling through the Halifax airport may not realize the tasty souvenir in their luggage isn't allowed in Canada.

That's because some meat products from countries other than the United States can contain dangerous diseases or pests that can threaten Canada's agriculture industry, the environment and the economy, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

So far this year in the Atlantic region, the Canada Border Services Agency has confiscated 700 food, plant and animal products, of which more than 300 were found at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said Krystal Daigle, a CBSA detector dog handler at the airport.

"Here in Halifax, I would say we find stuff on a daily basis," she said. "Mainly pork products, that's what we see the most of here. Good examples would probably be dried, cured sausage, a lot of pâtés and different things like that. We see a lot of hams."

With her dog Bella, they inspect up to hundreds of pieces of luggage in a given day searching for restricted products.

Some of the seized food in the Canada Border Services Agency's freezer at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Fresh, dried and cured meats aren't allowed into the country, unless they come from the U.S.

That's because animal populations in both Canada and the U.S. don't have the same diseases as their overseas counterparts, said Daniel Burgoyne, CFIA's national manager of food imports.

Only meat that is cooked, commercially prepared and commercially sterile in hermetically sealed packaging with identifying marks on it is allowed in from countries other than the United States.

Bella the detector dog is a treeing Walker coonhound. Some days, she can sniff hundreds of bags looking for restricted food, plant and animal products. (Canada Border Services Agency)

Pork is especially dangerous because many countries have been hit with foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever, said Burgoyne.

Foot-and-mouth disease can cause severe swelling around an animal's mouth to the point where it can't eat properly, and some even die from the condition. African swine fever is a deadly virus that can wipe out entire pig herds.

Neither disease is harmful to people, but Burgoyne said if either illness arrived in Canada, it could be devastating.

Most meats that come from anywhere besides the United States are not allowed into Canada, so they get seized at the border, says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"Those two diseases would cause great economic loss to the farmers and to the food industry in Canada," he said. "It would cause probably billions of dollars in losses overall. It would take years for the industry to get over."

The rules on what can be brought into the country aren't new, but illegal pork and other restricted foods just keep coming.

Even some cooked pork products — like this bag of pork rinds from England — are not allowed into Canada. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"A lot of the stuff we see here comes from Europe and Asia and overseas, so with the European charter season coming up, it's a good time to educate the public in regards to these things and what you're allowed and not allowed to bring into the country," said Daigle.

She said if someone comes through with restricted foods and declares it to the border agency, the items will be confiscated and destroyed. If the items are not declared there could be fines of up to $1,300 and possible prosecution.

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