Customs and border officials at JFK airport check 1,000 bags an hour for narcotics and illicit food. Here’s where the contraband goes

NEW YORK    About 43,000 international travelers fly in to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport every day. By passenger volume, it’s the US’s largest international airport of entry. And in just Terminal 4 alone, that equates to almost 1,000 bags an hour. And in those suitcases, there’s a lot of stuff, some of which isn’t allowed into the country, including 120 pounds of food per day. So what happens to all those confiscated items anyway?

If you flew into JFK in the ’90s, getting something into the US was a lot easier. But after 9/11, a conversation started about how to protect the country from dangerous foods, drugs, and people. And US Customs and Border Protection, as it’s known today, was formed.

You’ll generally see two kinds of CBP officials at airports: officers, like Steve, and agriculture specialists, like Ginger. Their job is to find, seize, and destroy millions of items each year that don’t belong in the United States. It’s a big job, and sometimes it requires a sidekick, a sidekick on four legs.

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