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WASHINGTON - The government last week banned the import of the fruit Spanish clementines after larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly were found in some of the fruit, Reuters reports.
The small oranges, which are sold in small wooden boxes, are being taken off store shelves in 17 Southern and Western states where the winter would be warm enough for the insects to survive. The ban does not apply clementines imported from Israel.
In recent years shippers started using refrigerated boats, which were supposed to keep the clementines cold enough to kill any flies that might be accompanying them.
The Agriculture Department initially suspended imports Nov. 30 after larvae were found in clementines in Maryland and North Carolina, Reuters reports. Because those clementines were traced to a single ship, USDA planned to allow imports to resume last week, but larvae were subsequently found in Louisiana as well. That fruit came from a different shipment, leading officials to conclude that the problem was more widespread than first thought.
The Agriculture Department suspended indefinitely the import of Spanish clementines and banned their sale or distribution in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Fruit in those areas must be destroyed or shipped to an approved location.