Border officials warn of increase in fake, prohibited COVID-19 products


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to identify and seize a large number of counterfeit, unapproved or otherwise substandard COVID-19 products that threaten the health and safety of American consumers. (CBP)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Criminal organizations are continually exploiting the pandemic by attempting to flood the market with counterfeit, unapproved or sub-standard COVID-19 products, officials warned Friday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it continues to identify and seize large quantities of items that threaten the health and safety of American consumers. CBP said criminals are taking advantage of the limited supply and increased demand for some pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical goods.

Since the start of the pandemic, CBP has documented nearly 600 incidents in which people tried to smuggle or transport shipments that include false or misleading claims, lack required warnings, or lack proper approvals, the majority involving FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits.

CBP continues to seize unapproved COVID-19 test kits nationwide.

As of June 1, CBP has seized:

  • 107,300 FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits (301 incidents)
  • 750,000 counterfeit face masks (86 incidents)
  • 2,500 EPA-prohibited anti-virus lanyards (89 incidents)
  • 11,000 FDA-prohibited chloroquine tablets (91 incidents).

“Criminals and other bad actors are trying to profit from the coronavirus pandemic by introducing unauthorized, unproven and potentially unsafe goods into the United States,” CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said in a statement. “CBP continues to target these dangerous shipments while facilitating the entry of legitimate pharmaceuticals and medical supplies that are needed to protect Americans.”

On May 17, CBP officers found 1,000 fake COVID-19 test kits in a man’s suitcase at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. The previous day, border officers at the Ysleta Port of Entry in El Paso’s Lower Valley said a 62-year-old woman, a U.S. citizen, had 1,000 facemasks, 2,740 mask filters, and 60 1-liter bottles of hand sanitizer. CBP seized all the products, which lacked proper registration, labeling, and did not comply with criteria set by the Food and Drug Administration, according to a news release.

Among other locations, CBP has made significant seizures of counterfeit and unauthorized COVID-19 products in Baltimore; Chicago; Los Angeles; Rochester, N.Y.; Seattle; and Vicksburg, Miss.

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