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Brown and CDFA Force Company to Stop Illegal Importation of Untreated Produce from India

Monday, June 8, 2009
Contact: (415) 703-5837

LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and the California Department of Food and Agriculture last week forged an agreement requiring Bombino Express Worldwide to immediately stop the “illegal importation” of produce that has not been treated to eradicate the Oriental Fruit Fly or other crop-damaging pests.

In July 2008, Bombino Express Worldwide imported 34 packages of Indian mangoes and yams that were labeled “ladies’ apparel” through Los Angeles International Airport. Airport dogs discovered the packages and prevented the produce from entering the food supply.

“Bombino Express Worldwide illegally imported mangoes and yams without treating them for dangerous pests such as the Oriental Fruit Fly,” Brown said. “It’s critical that imported produce be properly inspected to avoid devastating and costly pest infestations.”

State and Federal laws prohibit the importation of untreated mangoes from India because they can be infested with crop-damaging pests, like the Oriental Fruit Fly, which reproduces rapidly due to lack of natural biological constraints.

An Oriental Fruit Fly infestation could cost the state up to $176 million in crop losses, eradication efforts and quarantine requirements.

Brown’s Office and the California Department of Food and Agriculture filed a lawsuit against Bombino Express Worldwide and its CEO Mohmed Yasin Latiwala of New Jersey in July 2008, contending that the company had violated:

• Food and Agriculture Code section 5306, which prohibits importation of plant material in violation of a plant quarantine;
• Food and Agriculture Code section 6321, which prohibits the importation of any fruit/plant/vegetable which may become a host to any species of the fruit fly family;
• Food and Agriculture Code section 6421, which prohibits shipments of plants brought into the state without proper markings and disclosure; and
• Food and Agriculture Code section 6461, prohibiting importation of plant material infested with agricultural pests subject to quarantine.

Bombino Express Worldwide is headquartered in Mumbai, India. The settlement prevents Bombino Express Worldwide from importing produce that have not been properly inspected for foreign pests. The company will also pay $40,000 in civil penalties. If the company violates the agreement in the future, it will be forced to pay $1.6 million in additional penalties.

“The inspectors who prevented these shipments from passing into California deserve the appreciation of farmers throughout California,” said CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “Invasive pests are a primary threat to our crops, and keeping them out of California is vital to the security of our food supply and the stability of our agricultural economy.”

A copy of the settlement agreement is attached.

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