- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001


The government banned imports of popular Spanish clementines after larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly were found in some of the fruit.

The small oranges, which are sold in small wooden boxes, also must be pulled from store shelves in 17 Southern and Western states where the winter would be warm enough for the insects to survive. A few clementines are imported from Israel, and the ban does not apply to them.

The seedless, easy-to-peel fruit exploded in popularity in recent years after shippers obtained the necessary refrigerated boats. The refrigeration was supposed to keep the clementines cold enough to kill any flies that might be accompanying them.

The Medfly is considered one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests, threatening more than 250 kinds of fruits, nuts and vegetables.

There are no established populations of the insect in the United States. Female flies lay their eggs inside fruit, and the larvae then feed on it.

The Agriculture Department initially suspended imports Nov. 30 after larvae were found in clementines in Maryland and North Carolina. Because those clementines were traced to a single ship, the Agriculture Department planned to allow imports to resume this week, but larvae were subsequently found in Louisiana as well, USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said yesterday. That fruit came from a different shipment, leading officials to conclude that the problem was more widespread than first thought.

The Agriculture Department suspended indefinitely imports of Spanish clementines and banned their sale or distribution in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Fruit in those areas must be destroyed or shipped to an approved location.

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