CBP officers discover bat meat in traveler's baggage at Washington Dulles Airport

Originally Published: 16 APR 22 02:00 ETBy Zoe Sottile, CNN

(CNN) -- US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers inspecting luggage at Washington Dulles International Airport recently discovered an unusual find: three and a half pounds of bat meat.

The charred meat was found in the baggage of a passenger from Maryland arriving from Ghana April 5, CBP said in a news release.

Bat meat is considered "bushmeat," which can carry infectious diseases, and is therefore prohibited from entering the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition to bat meat, the traveler was also carrying prohibited plants in his luggage, including 12 pounds of tetraplura (a flowering plant from West Africa), turkey berries (yellow-green, pea-sized berries), and eggplants, authorities said.

The plants were seized and destroyed, and the meat was turned over to the CDC for further inspection, the CBP said. The traveler was released.

"Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists play a very challenging frontline role in protecting the public, our nation's agricultural industries, and our economic vitality every day against the deliberate or accidental introduction of potentially crippling animal diseases that may be carried in passenger baggage," Daniel Escobedo, CBP's Area Port Director for the Area Port of Washington, DC, said in the release.

Bushmeat has been linked to the spread of Ebola, as humans may be exposed to the virus when hunting, butchering, and eating infected animals, according to the CDC. Bats, in particular, have been suggested as one possible source of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite these concerns, the bushmeat trade continues to grow due to food insecurity, among other issues.

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