Bacteria in Dairy Products in Baggage of Incoming Travelers, Brazil
International air travel can lead to the rapid global dissemination of infectious agents. Unlike products and byproducts of animal origin imported between countries under agreements that legally establish sanitary standards, products introduced into a country illegally or irregularly do not follow specific standards and can come from any source, thereby posing a risk to the health status of a country.
Animal products transported clandestinely in baggage can contain infectious agents harmful to animal and human health. We investigated Brucella spp., Mycobacterium bovis, and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) in dairy products seized from baggage of passengers on flights at the 2 main international airports in Brazil.
During 2010–2011, 12 missions were instigated by the International Agriculture Surveillance in airports to detect and seize unauthorized dairy products carried by passengers; 195 products were collected from multiple flights from different destinations. Baggage was scanned by using an x-ray machine and, on detection of a product, was opened by the owner in the presence of a federal agriculture inspector. To avoid contamination, the products were not opened and were sent to the designated Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply Laboratory in their original packaging. All seized products were packed according to the International Air Transport Association standards (5) and transported by commercial aviation with official monitoring to the laboratory.
Three containers of liquid milk from the United States were collected and analyzed .. Five containers of powdered milk were seized: Brucella was detected in 1 container from Chile; Brucella and M. bovis were found in 1 container from Angola. Four containers of yogurt were seized. MAP was detected in those from Angola and South Africa, and the yogurt from South Africa also showed Brucella.
We analyzed samples from 147 cheeses that were confiscated from baggage owned by travelers. M. bovis was identified in 18 MAP was amplified in specimens from 13 cheeses.. Brucella was detected in 62 of the cheeses.
Both M. bovis and Brucella were detected in 13 (8.8%) cheeses.Brucella and MAP were detected in 4 Co-amplification of the 3 genes (Brucella + MAP + M. bovis) occurred in 3 (2%) cheeses. Among the cheeses analyzed, 84 had genes for the 3 bacteria examined.
Cheeses were the most seized products and had the highest number of Brucella-positive results. Brucella was detected in dairy products that originated in Argentina, Spain, France, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Portugal, and Turkey; M. bovis was detected in dulce de leche from Argentina, powdered milk from Chile, and in cheeses from Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, and Portugal.
Bacteria can be introduced into a country through contaminated animal products that are brought across borders illegally. The risk may be even greater when these products are carried in passengers’ baggage on international flights because of the growing number of international travelers and the wide range of origins of these passengers. Greater attention should be given to agricultural surveillance at airports to mitigate the risk for introduction of these products.