Old Calif. nemesis part of new lawsuit filed by AG

Legal News Line Jul. 21, 2008, 9:27pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California's state bird may be the quail, but its unofficial state nemesis is the tiny fruit fly.

And once again, it may be back.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown sued Bombino Express Worldwide for importing unmarked packages of mangoes and yams from India that had not been treated to prevent the spread of the Oriental Fruit Fly, Brown's press staff announced Monday.

"When foreign shipping companies disobey California's quarantine laws they put the state's growers at risk," Brown said. "County, state and federal inspectors should be commended for catching this illegal shipment and isolating its contents."

California's long history with the fruit fly dates back to 1960. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Mexican Fruit Fly and Oriental Fruit Fly can damage most of the fruits and vegetables grown in the state.

Four major oriental fruit fly infestations in California were eradicated between 1960 and 1997.

A new infestation was detected in San Bernardino County, in August 2002. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences reported quarantines and regulatory activities have continued in several counties from 2004 through 2007.

Problems with fruit flies are nothing new to the attorney general. In 1982, Brown, who was then governor of California, authorized a massive response to a fruit fly infestation that the agriculture officials believed threatened billions of dollars worth of crops.

Highway checkpoints were set up, helicopters sprayed Malathion and millions of sterile male fruit flies were released.

According to a press release issued by the attorney general Monday, fruit flies can travel up to 30 miles in search of food and sites to lay eggs. The threat of the Oriental Fruit Fly was so great imports like mangoes and yams from India were banned until 2006.

New federal laws require documentation that imported mangoes were treated to kill any fruit fly larvae, the press release said.

An inspector near Ontario International Airport in Southern California discovered several unmarked packages of imported produce.

He reported the findings to the Department of Food and Agriculture, according to the attorney general, launching an investigation into the practices of Bombino Express Worldwide, based in Inglewood, Calif.

"Bombino Express Worldwide appears to be part of a large network of companies that import various products including fruit, spices and other products from Indian and Southeast Asia," Brown said.

The company could face up to $1.67 million in penalties for 167 violations of California law, Brown said.

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