How Customs Officials Keep Your Flowers Pest- and Drug-Free for Valentine's Day

Millions of flowers are checked every year for insects and drugs.

ByGENEVA SANDS
February 13, 2016, 12:07 AM
PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agricultural Specialists inspect imported flowers, ahead of Valentine's Day, in Miami, Feb. 10, 2016.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agricultural Specialists inspect imported flowers, ahead of Valentine's Day, in Miami, Feb. 10, 2016.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

— -- Customs officials are working to make sure that love is all you receive with that bouquet of flowers this Valentine’s Day.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checks the millions of flowers coming into the U.S. for insects, diseases and even hidden narcotics.

Most cut flowers are imported from South America, primarily Columbia and Ecuador, through Miami, where they are inspected by agricultural specialists and monitored for any illicit substances.

Last Valentine’s Day, customs processed 976 million cut flower stems at airports and shipping facilities across the county, up almost 20 percent from 2014.

Miami processed the most imported cut flowers, approximately 91.5 percent, followed by Los Angeles during last year’s Valentine’s season.

Roses, mixed bouquets and Dianthus (commonly known as carnations) were the top flower imports through Miami, according to CBP.

“Agriculture specialists are the front line in preventing the introduction of harmful insects and diseases into the United States while protecting the public and our economic vitality," said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske in a statement Thursday.

In Houston, agriculture specialists have inspected roughly five shipments of flowers a week this season.

On Thursday, bunches of roses were unwrapped and shaken over a white piece of paper, causing tiny pests to “fall from flowers and scurry across the paper.”

The pests are collected and given to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify.

Last year, there were 2,870 pest interceptions total stemming from imported cut flower inspections.

And it’s not just pests that are found in flower shipments. This past summer, customs officials announced that officers at Miami International Airport (MIA) had seized more than 80 pounds of cocaine and heroin concealed in flowers from Colombia and Ecuador since the beginning of 2014.

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