What is ‘bushmeat’? Trend sees dangerous mix of rat and primate meat brought into US

·2 min read
US Customs photo

An exotic food product known as “bushmeat” is showing up increasingly at one of the nation’s busiest airports and U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the mystery meat is potentially deadly.

International travelers are incorrectly identifying the product as “fish,” officials said in a Jan. 12 news release.

However, fish is typically only a fraction of the ingredients — if included at all.

“Bushmeat can be bats, nonhuman primates, cane rats, and antelope,” officials said.

“The term ‘bushmeat’ refers to raw and minimally processed meat that comes from wild animals. ... Bushmeat is often smoked, dried, or salted, which are not procedures that render the meat noninfectious. Bushmeat could be infected with germs that can cause sickness in people including the Ebola virus.”

The product is illegal in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demanding “bushmeat” found at U.S. ports “be destroyed along with any personal items that may have come in contact with the bushmeat.”

Customs officials say finding the product is a growing trend at hubs like Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport.

CBP officers seized more than 100 pounds of “bushmeat” at the airport the last week of 2021, officials said.

The second week of January, a traveler returning from Liberia in West Africa was found with “two primate arms and primate rib material,” according to Augustine Moore, area port director.

The chief concern, agriculture specialists say, is the meat “could have deadly effects and lead to another outbreak of disease.”

News of the trend comes as the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which “epidemiologists determined ... possibly came from an animal sold at a market” in Asia, according to the CDC.

The virus has been linked to more than 5.5 million deaths globally as of Jan. 18, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 850,000 deaths in the U.S.

Ebola, largely spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids, is an even deadlier concern. It is not typically contracted through food, but cases in Africa have been linked to “hunting, butchering, and processing of meat from infected animals,” officials said.

The CDC recommends people don’t eat the product and don’t handle it without wearing gloves.

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