Crossing borders and fruit (Homer and Niles)?

Recently while watching re-runs of Frasier and the Simpsons, I was served the same gag twice: Someone heading for the northern border with fruit in his car, this being a liability. Why? What is it about fruit and the Canadian border?

It reduces infectious agents entering the country.

It’s not just fruit, it’s all food products. I imagine the U.S. has the same controls on receiving stuff–it’s a health issue. This might be the one tomato that has salmonella bacteria, or the one cut of meat that has traces of E. coli…

I have seen U.S.D.A guys with beagles sniffing arriving international luggage for illicit food products. Yes, it is a fruit fly/citrus canker/foot-and-mouth/etc. concern going on. Oh, it even happens inside the country – transit through the Miami airport after your island cruise and you will be encouraged/required to dump any citrus fruit into special bins (I think canker is the concern).

Mind you, I think it’s generally less a concern about your or my health, more a concern about the health of the agricultural economy should some crop-killing or mad-cow type contagion start spreading in the country’s orchards or feedlots.

Some one brought fruit back from Hawaii 20 to 30 years ago. When it turned out to be rotten they threw it in the trash. That is how California got its first fruit fly infestation.

Yes. And IIRC, even California tells you that you can’t drive from Arizona into the state with fresh produce. It is, after all, the largest agricultural producer in the country.

You can take a plane from one state to another when you’re infected with TB and no one will ever bother to ask you if you’re sick, but if you admit to having some apples in your car when coming from Arizona, they’ll tell you to throw them away.

I’ve been challenged going across the border in both directions about having food in the car.

It really makes no sense. The crossing to the US where Quebec 15 meets I-87 has large signs warning against importation of fresh fruit and vegetables. Actually, all foods are subject to inspection, but if you bring cheese and crackers, they don’t care. Do they think insects and rusts are going to respect borders? Once at the Montreal airport a dept of agriculture guy confiscated a granny smith apple. I said I would eat it on the spot. No, he said, this is US territory. He was lying, but I didn’t know that at the time. He was within his rights to stop me taking it, but he had no right to stop me eating it on the spot. But these petty dictators lie all the time.

Bolding mine.

Well, it’s worse than that: if you bring raw milk cheese (defined as any cheese not made from Pasteurized milk and/or not aged for 90 days) from Canada, the U.S. will, in theory, confiscate it as a threat to public health (despite the fact that there are precisely zero, AFAICT, cases of anyone getting sick from such cheese in the U.S. or Canada).

Not true. There have been plenty of cases of disease in the U.S. caused by raw milk cheese. I was working in the California state legislature when we had a serious outbreak in Northern California. I worked on legislation related to that outbreak.

According to this report, the CDC reported 39 outbreaks between 1998 and 2005 related to unpasteurized milk or cheese. There were 831 illnesses, 66 hospitalizations, and one death.

It’s similar in Australia. Anyone who has driven across the border from New South Wales to Victoria has seen the signs warning against bringing fruit and vegetables into Victoria, and this South Australian government website says:

Australia has even stricter quarantine rules at the international border. Of course, Australia being an island makes it somewhat easier to patrol the borders, and more difficult for pests and diseases to get in via natural means.