Woman fined $500 after taking free snack apple off Delta flight

That apple was within six degrees of separation of a terrorist.

I expect that customs sees a ton of food every day, even though people are told again and again not to do it, and one little pest or blight can cause havoc with a major industry.


Came to say the same thing - as a regular traveller to NZ and Australia I am very familiar with their strict requirements.

I think the big difference here is that there are no warnings on the plane or on the ground when arriving in the US - whereas the biosecurity people in NZ and Australia require announcements before landing and there is very clear signage and amnesty bins on the ground before customs.

Suffice to say that everyone you deal with in customer, immigration, biosecurity, etc is orders of magnitude more professional, polite, and efficient than their equivalents in the US or UK.


Certainly agree. (I travel a lot…and am quite aware of the issue. Plenty of people do not and are not.)

The USDA inspector did nothing wrong.

Legally? Sure. In terms of common sense and decency? Surely not.


This is a weird situation where nobody did the right thing.

  • anyone who’s flown even once into US Customs would know that anything with seeds needs to be declared, including any fresh fruit you bought in an airport or on board. They usually make that super clear and tell everyone repeatedly that you will be fined. The passenger is at fault, sadly.
  • But that said, Delta did a crappy job of explaining this when giving people fresh fruit (which is weird, Delta has never given me apples as a free snack), and the Customs agent was an asshole.

OF COURSE the CBP guy was a smug, malicious git; it seems to be part of the job requirement.

But the law itself is not a stupid one. People smuggle agricultural products into the US all the time, and once in a while what they bring in has horribly expensive consequences. Growing up in Southern California, I vividly remember how the Mediterranean fruit fly (or “Medfly”) devastated the citrus industry, and the draconian efforts that had to be taken to get it under control (they’ve still never managed to eradicate the pest, by the way.) Some jackass decided to bring illegal foreign fruit into a state whose major industry was growing fruit, and his/her action cost the rest of us many billions of dollars. I’m sure that if they ever found out who did it, their defense would be “It was just an orange! Don’t have a cow, man!”


It’s a little excessive. Anyone that’s driven into CA knows that we have border stops AND agricultural stops as well. For good reason, our agriculture is a 45 billion dollar a year part of the economy. But if you fuck up and have an apple or an orange in your car, they just toss it.


That’s what happens if you own up to your mistake, yes. If you try to brazen it out and make a scene, things can escalate.


It doesn’t matter where it came from. If it has been out of the US, it is considered contaminated.

I was once spoken to by a CBP agent when coming back into the US from Canada. He asked if I had any fruits or veggies and I replied “Nothing that I didn’t bring with me from home”. (I had nothing anyway). He explained it doesn’t matter the origin, it could have gotten parasites while in Canada. And somehow I still avoided getting searched!

As a practical matter, I travel to Canada regularly, and have never experienced anything but professional treatment when returning, and at times, actual humor.


Agree. Invasive species can be introduced from just one contraband apple. The problem was not “stealing” the apple; it was not declaring it at a biosecurity checkpoint. They’ve been going house to house in my area thanks to the introduction of Asian citrus psyllids into the area. They carry a tree-killing bacteria that could decimate one of our biggest cash crops.


Usual reply from normal travelers: NO FRESH FRUIT? THIS IS NUTS!


I remember the first time I flew overseas and came back through US Customs (into Chicago O’Hare). Having just been in Switzerland where Customs was quietly, coldly efficient and friendly, I vividly remember being herded into a large room with lines painted on the floor and signs reading VISITORS BLUE LINE and RESIDENT RED LINE, guards yelling “Vistors blue line!” at people, as if that was a complete self-explanatory sentence. It felt hostile and nasty.


SILENCE FOOL! The Internet is busy being outraged! How dare you interrupt? Guards - seize him!


Just FTR: seeds are not the prerequisite. You can’t bring plant material. A de-cored apple, or cultivated bananas (which usually don’t develop seeds) are still no-no.

Fruit flies, OTH, are a serious pest. This one recenty invaded parts of southern Germany and gives winemakers and fruit farmers the creeps:

Note that it hasn’t conquered all of the Americas, yet.


I might expect procuring fresh fruit would be a needless expense for Delta compared to salty prepackaged snacks of dubious expiration. I reckon disposing of the waste could be comparatively messy as well.


Okeydoke. I believe you, but they did specify plant material and seeds the last time I flew, so I made the assumption that the seeds were the big sticking point.


My own story with CBP - coming back from holiday in Jamaica and my wife had bought a couple of handmade palm leaf weaved baskets. We were waiting for bags at the carousel when the little beagle dog sniffed her out.

Apparently this confused several agents who disagreed on whether a basket constituted illicit plant material. There was general disagreement among 3 different agents about dried vs. non-dried leaves. They spent about 15 mins arguing back and forth before taking the basket and letting us go.

They spent so much time arguing about the basket in her handbag that they totally missed the basket in her suitcase.

I’m a very seasoned traveler and have occasionally forgotten about what I was carrying to/from a foreign country - including the banana I had put in my bag in the SFO airline lounge and totally forgot about upon landing in Sydney 15+ hours later.

Usually an honest mistake merits a warning and tossing the offending item before being sent on your way. This agent was obviously being a dick by enforcing the $500 fine.


I want to know which Airport this was. I’m guessing JFK. I fly in and out of there frequently these days, and I find the majority of TSA staff and many, many of the people employed by the shops and restaurants to be criminally mean, stupid, and rude. It’s the the entire airport is a huge jobs program for assholes and idiots. Yeah, I know, not all of them, but I challenge anyone to go through the ticket counter, security, visit a newstand, and hit a restaurant and not encounter at least one irritating, capricious, officious, ill-mannered POS.


I wonder what the fine would be for hawking up a big one and spitting in the agent’s face.

Not for the fine… but for the smugness.

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Since this was a Delta flight arriving from Paris pretty sure it was Atlanta.

Agree that New York agents (JFK, LGA, EWR) are the worst though. It seems the only way they know to communicate with passengers is to bark out orders. I feel bad for foreigners unfamiliar with TSA procedures.

Edit: Oops…read the article. It was Minneapolis.

But the apple was found in a random search by US border agents after her first flight landed in Minneapolis.

Sucks too that not only does she get the $500 fine but also has her Global Entry privileges revoked. I would protest about that as well.

The latter is a much bigger deal than the $500. Besides being expensive, Global Entry is a big hassle to arrange and wait for. I have a friend whose job is paying for his application and he’s been waiting 8 months or so for his in-person interview.