Food smuggling up from PA

Agriculture Ministry claims smugglers caught sneaking food into Israel for sale more than 1,500 times last year.

Smuggled chickens 224.88 (photo credit: Agriculture Ministry )
Smuggled chickens 224.88
(photo credit: Agriculture Ministry )
Smugglers were caught sneaking food from the West Bank into Israel for sale more than 1,500 times last year - double the number of offenses in 2006 - according to an Agriculture Ministry report released on Wednesday. The smugglers were foiled by the ministry's food quality enforcement unit. "Not all of the criminals are caught, but the more offenses there are, the more captures we make," the ministry said in a statement. Jerusalem "is not only capital of Israel but also is capital of food smuggling, with 238 [failed] attempts to smuggle meat and vegetables" into the city in 2007, according to the report. Seizures made last year included interceptions of vegetables (32 percent), livestock (25%), and illegally slaughtered beef and chicken (21%), the report said. Smuggling food from the Palestinian Authority required the cooperation of Palestinian producers and Israeli transporters to create a highly lucrative black market, said Dafna Yurista, spokeswoman for ministry. "They all make big profits. The Palestinians will receive far more money for their goods in Israel than they would in the PA. And Israeli locals will also see much more profit in smuggling than by doing things the standard way," she said. While some vegetables and fruits are allowed to enter Israel, the Agriculture Ministry enforces a strict ban on meat and eggs from the PA, because of the ease with which they can become contaminated. "Meat and poultry products can easily be infected, and there are dubious methods of slaughter, leading to disease. Therefore we enforce the ban vigorously," Yurista said. Consumers should only buy meat and poultry from licensed outlets that display an official food quality certificate, she said. "There's no such thing as 100% safe, but those are the safest places to buy food. We readily concede that we do not know how much illegally smuggled food makes it through into the country." The smuggled meat finds its way to markets and other unregulated points of sale, such as vehicles selling eggs door-to-door in Orthodox neighborhoods. "Those eggs may be stored in 40-50 degree heat, and they are of course not safe for consumption," Yurista said. "Our forecast for 2008 is not optimistic; we believe smuggling will increase across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, while criminal organizations will continue to be attracted to food smuggling as a lucrative profit source and a way to launder money," she said.