Authorities with U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 42 pounds of "horse meat and other ruminant meat," including 13 pounds of horse genitals, from a pair of women who arrived late last month at Washington Dulles International Airport.
The women, who were not identified, arrived at the airport on Jan. 29 on a flight from Mongolia, Customs officials said on Thursday. Their stash of forbidden meat was found tucked into juice boxes along with three liters of yak milk during an agricultural examination, according to authorities.
It was not clear why the women packed horse meat with them, although one of them told authorities the horse genitals were meant for medicinal purposes, officers said.
"Customs and Border Protection takes no pleasure in seizing and destroying travelers' food products," said Wayne Biondi, Customs and Border Patrol port director for Washington Dulles.
However, officials said, the seizure was necessary to stymie the spread of animal diseases, particularly the highly infectious, sometimes fatal foot-and-mouth disease. Travelers are prohibited from bringing horse meat to America unless they have official government documentation from the country the meat came from, officials said.
"We're in the business of protecting America's agriculture industries, like the livestock industry, from the potential introduction of animal diseases posed by these unpermitted food products," Biondi said.
The women were released without criminal charges. The seized meat was incinerated by authorities.
More than 1 million people are searched by agricultural specialists with Customs and Border Patrol each day. The agency noted it's not uncommon for travelers to attempt to bring in prohibited items that are seen as nondescript in their countries of origin.
Among other items, the agency has seized anything "from charred full monkeys, to voodoo ceremony tools, to cocaine concealed inside the cavity of fully cooked chickens, to live sea horses and giant African land snails."