US woman denied entry into New Zealand over vegetables

Indo Asian News Service

Wellington, April 18 (IANS) A suitcase full of fruits and vegetables led to an American woman being stopped from entering New Zealand, officials said on Tuesday.

The woman had failed to declare the produce when she arrived at Christchurch airport on Saturday, Xinhua news agency quoted Primary Industries Ministry as saying.

The ministry staff detected the goods during x-ray screening of the passenger's bag after she arrived on a flight from Sydney. She was forced to return to Sydney on the next available flight.

"The passenger admitted she was deliberately trying to smuggle the food into New Zealand. When asked why, she said didn't want to cause delays for her travelling companions and she wasn't sure what she could bring in," said border clearance manager Andrew Spelman.

"The suitcase included oranges, apples, avocados, sweet potato and carrots. We're talking potential host materials for a range of bugs that could devastate New Zealand's horticulture sector," said Spelman.

"The deliberate and reckless nature of her actions forced our hand. They needed to be dealt with more severely than a warning or a simple infringement notice."

New Zealand has some of the strictest biosecurity rules in the world and inbound travellers must declare a range of products as well as all foods.

--IANS

py/mr