Here's What Airport Customs REALLY Does With Your Contraband Food

They call it The Grinder.

Ever wonder where your avocado goes once it's confiscated at U.S. Customs? Nope, it's not some happy airport dinner party featuring the yummiest guac ever.

It's called The Grinder. And NOTHING survives it.

In this video from Great Big Story, U.S. customs officer Ellie Scaffa discusses what happens to the food she and other officers seize from passengers entering the country. Every day, her team at JFK confiscates and labels some 400 to 600 pounds of food including beef candy from China, serrano ham from Spain and LOTS of shiny, ripe avocados.

Upon confiscation, the goods get wheeled across the airport (JFK in this case) to a room where they're inspected for insects and chopped up in a big, menacing grinding machine, never to be seen again.

"The reason... is not because it's harmful to the human being," Scaffa explains. "It's harmful for our plants and our animals."

Indeed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection prohibits travelers from bringing many types of fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds and "almost anything containing meat products" in the country. The items are banned in the interest of protecting U.S. agriculture from harmful pests and diseases, according to the Customs and Border Protection website.

Some of these items may require permits to get through customs, and others may be prohibited entirely: Do some research with the U.S. Department of Agriculture if you're really keen on bringing food home from your international trip.

Happy (and yummy) travels!

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