Federal officials discovered a particularly destructive type of beetle in a 55,000-pound shipment of cumin seed entering the Port of Baltimore from India on Friday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials found what were later confirmed to be dead Khapra beetles in part of the 500-bag spice shipment.
The beetle, which feeds on grains and cereals, is considered one of the most destructive insects in the world, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. The insect contaminates grains with body parts and hair, is hard to kill and can sicken adults and infants, federal officials said. The state of California spent $11 million in 1953 to eradicate the beetle during an infestation.
The cumin seed was re-exported after the importer was given the option of either that or destroying the entire shipment.
Two years ago, federal officials restricted imports of rice from countries that have the Khapra beetle after a rising number of contaminated shipments. The countries included India, Nigeria, Israel and Burkina Faso.