Are those 450 illegal tamales in your pocket, uh, luggage; or are you just happy to see me?

I like tamales so I’m curious about what made the ones confiscated at LAX today so special that they were smuggled into the U.S.. And what food safety parameters they were being transported under.

According to USA Today, a traveler from Mexico was detained after authorities found 450 pork tamales in a suitcase.8d13067ed5bc1933880f6a7067005812

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday that the traveler’s customs form acknowledged the person was carrying food, but the traveler lied when asked if there was any meat.

A search turned up the individually wrapped pork tamales. The CBP enforces federal regulations on importing meat, which carry disease risks.

The traveler was assessed a $1,000 civil penalty for commercial activity with the intent to distribute.

A different kind of mile-high club: 12 ill on a flight to LAX

Illnesses happen on planes, and it’s miserable.

The Los Angeles Times reports that 12 passengers on a flight from Fiji to LAX fell ill with vomiting and nausea. Each of the affected flyers reported staying in the same hotel prior to the flight.

Maybe the best plane-related outbreak was one reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases a couple of years ago. I’d describe my poop and barf-related imagination as pretty good but I couldn’t have dreamt up the scenario that unfolded on a plane leaving Boston bound for Los Angeles in October 2008.F97B1678-9288-4E1F-A6DC-5C807461E2CA

Members of [the] tour group experienced diarrhea and vomiting throughout an airplane flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California, resulting in an emergency diversion 3 h after takeoff.

The problematic flight departed Boston on Oct 8, 2008, heading for Los Angeles and carrying among its passengers 35 members of a leaf-peeping tour group. (Four more members of the group had planned other routes home, while two had been hospitalized in the previous 2 days.)

The outbreak included a passenger with “multiple episodes of diarrhea, with at least 1 occurring in the aisle of the first-class section. The soiled aisle was not cleaned until after completion of the flight.”

Is food safe at airline operations at Los Angeles airport

Whenever I fly, I avoid LAX. The Los Angeles airport is a mess, with terminals scattered all around, but you may see a porn star (or wannabe). federal inspector on a routine visit to food service facilities at Los Angeles International Airport in January found conditions that, she wrote, could compromise the safety of food meant for airline passengers.

Bathrooms where employees washed their hands were dirty. Machines used to control bacteria were not adequately maintained. And clutter in the food storage area created a potential for pests, the inspector for the Food and Drug Administration wrote, according to a report.

The Los Angeles facilities were one of several catering operations owned and operated by Flying Food Group, which prepares meals for some of the world’s largest airlines. Inspectors over the past few years have found unsanitary conditions in several kitchens operated by the company.

Friend of the barfblog, Roy Costa, said, “There is a real risk of illness and injury to tens of thousands of airline passengers on a daily basis.”

But another friend of the barfblog, Paul A. Hall, vice president for food safety and quality at Flying Food Group, acknowledged the findings of the F.D.A. inspections cited in the union report, but added that the problems at the facilities had been fixed. The company also said the report from the union was part of an effort to organize workers at the company.

“While we strive for perfection in all we do, F.F.G. acknowledges that at times we fall short of that goal,” he said in an email. “However, once issues are identified, a root cause analysis is conducted and actions taken based on that analysis. If repeat problems occur, we keep looking for solutions until we find the effective one.”

Dr. Hall said workers were encouraged to take problems to the attention of their managers. But workers at the Los Angeles facility said in interviews that managers rarely listened to their complaints.

They said that dishwashing machines regularly broke down, leaving workers to wash plates and other dishes by hand, often without detergent; that managers had ordered workers to change the dates indicating when food was prepared; and that they had seen insects and rodents in areas where food was being prepared.

Flying Food disputes these accusations. In a statement, the company said it had received no complaints from employees about problems with food safety or unsanitary conditions at its Los Angeles facilities. It said an outside auditor hired by several airlines, including Air France, had recently inspected the facilities and given them high marks for quality and food safety.

Operation Flying Turtle nabs two Japanese allegedly smuggling 55 live turtles into LAX in snack food boxes

The L.A. Times reports that federal officials arrested two Japanese men for allegedly smuggling 55 live turtles into LAX in snack food boxes.

Atsushi Yamagami, 39, and Norihide Ushirozako, 49, were arrested Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after an undercover sting operation, according to a statement by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Authorities said they infiltrated the ring over the last few months in an investigation known as "Operation Flying Turtle."

Prosecutors said the charges carry a maximum possible federal prison sentence of 20 years.

"In August 2010, Hiroki Uetsuki, an associate of Yamagami and Ushirozako, traveled from Osaka, Japan, and arrived at Honolulu International Airport," where turtles were discovered in his suitcase, prosecutors said.

"After U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents arrested Uetsuki, he informed the agents that Yamagami paid him approximately 100,000 yen (approximately $1,200) and his travel expenses to smuggle turtles and tortoises into the United States," officials said.

American admits smuggling Aussie lizards – by strapping them to his body (again)

Fresh off reports that a Peruvian man tried to smuggle 18 baby moneys into Mexico City by strapping them to his body, Michael Plank, owner of US-based Big Game Reptiles, admitted in a Californian court he smuggled 15 live Australian lizards into the US by strapping them to his chest.

Acting on a tip from a "confidential informant", a pat-down search on Plank after he arrived at Los Angeles international airport last November on a United Airlines flight originating in Sydney found two money belts strapped to his chest containing two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 skinks worth more than $US8500 ($A9400).

Plank pleaded guilty after initially denying the charges.

Vomiting plane passenger causes LAX excitment

About six years ago I was flying from Toronto to Ottawa and after a particularly turbulent morning ride, I was looking a little green. Although the plane was preparing to land, the steward said, ‘you gotta go, you gotta go,’ so I experienced landing while kneeling at the airplane’s plastic throne.

No one figured I was contagious.

Not so in Los Angeles this morning.

United Airlines flight 890 arriving from Japan informed ground crews shortly before touching down at 8:30 a.m. that a 28-year-old man aboard the aircraft of more than 300 passengers was sick and might have some sort of virus.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Cecil Manresa said,

Los Angeles city paramedics and personnel from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded the Boeing 747 after it landed. It took about 20 minutes to determine that the passenger was not contagious, Manresa said.

"He had some kind of stomach ailment or food poising issue, and it was not a virus [or] an infectious disease," he said.

Manresa said that city paramedics, and not the CDC, generally respond when airline passengers complain of illness. But the unidentified man must have told the airplane’s crew something to make them think that his condition was more severe, he said.

All I said was, leave me alone.

Gross bathroom behavior at LAX

Maybe it’s the delirium from 20 hours of traveling back from Australia with another 12 to go (that’s air-time and wait-time), but as I was dutifully washing my hands at the Los Angeles airport bathroom, a middle-aged well-dressed dude walked in eating an apple. I pulled a Howard Hughes and got a little compulsive about my hands, to see what this guy would do. He wandered around the bathroom, looking for an empty stall, all the while eating his apple.

He went into a stall while continuing to eat his apple.

I left.