US Customs asks travelers to stop putting cow dung in baggage

The US Customs and Border Protection agency made a surprising announcement on Monday, stating that its agents have found cow dung packaged in luggage — and, it warns, you should stop doing this because of the health risk it presents. The cow dung may have been transported under the mistaken belief that it offers protection against COVID-19.

According to the US CBP, its agents discovered two cow dung patties in a suitcase that was left behind after an Air India flight last month. The suitcase arrived at the Washington Dulles International Airport; as you'd expect, the CBP says that its agriculture specialists destroyed the cow products.

Of note, the US CBP warns that cow dung is one of the items prohibited for transportation from India to the US. Despite some beliefs that cow dung may offer health benefits — including, increasingly, beliefs that it may protect against COVID-19 — the reality is that these products pose a risk of transmitting Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

This disease is found all over the world and is of particular concern for farms as it spread rapidly through livestock. The US has been free of Foot and Mouth Disease since 1929, and the US CBP warns that reintroducing it could be devastating to the international livestock market.

A single case of FMD would likely result in international livestock trade being temporarily suspended until the source of the disease can be eradicated. Concerns about the potential distribution of cow dung are higher than usual due to India's tragic COVID-19 situation and the belief among some in the country that cow dung can boost immunity and help protect against infections.