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Destructive beetle found in rice shipment at LAX

January 5, 2011 | 12:21 pm

Customs officials say they intercepted one of the world’s most destructive grain and seed pests during an inspection at Los Angeles International Airport.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection say inspectors discovered a bug known as the khapra beetle last week in a bag of Indian rice that a passenger was bringing from Saudi Arabia on a Dec. 29 flight. The bag was destroyed.

The khapra beetle is dangerous, officials say, because it feeds on grain and is tolerant to many insecticides.

“They’re good at hiding and they multiply,” said Naveeda Mirza, the inspection agency’s agriculture program manager. “Before you know it, half of your grain is gone."

In the 1960s, the state of California spent millions of dollars to eradicate a khapra beetle infestation in the state, Mirza said.

Inspectors discover pests in luggage every day, said Mizra, who urged international travelers to avoid packing food.

“Chocolate, candy, maybe that’s OK,” she said. “But beans and rice that you’re bringing for your own consumption, it’s better to just buy it here.”

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-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

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