A shipment of Indian cumin seed contaminated with the larvae of a dead Khapra beetle, an invasive insect, never made it to McCormick & Co.'s Hunt Valley facility and was to be sent back to India, the spice maker said Tuesday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered the larvae and other seed contaminants during a search of the shipment at the port of Baltimore on April 17. The next day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that the insect was a Khapra beetle, considered one of the most destructive pests, damaging grain, cereals and stored food.
Customs and Border Protection said the Khapra beetle is the only insect the agency takes action against even when it's dead.
The insect contaminates grain with body parts and hairs, which can cause gastrointestinal problems in adults and can especially sicken infants, according to a Customs and Border Protection statement.
McCormick spokesman Jim Lynn said in a statement that the discovery of an invasive insect like the Khapra beetle was not a "regular event." Nonetheless, Lynn said, the incident showed that the food safety partnership between federal agricultural officials and the company worked.
"We take seriously our commitment to high quality standards and food safety and have a well-earned reputation," he said. "We have our own rigorous cleaning process in place after the government inspections."