Thousands of pounds of imported mooncakes were seized by federal authorities in Cincinnati as a bid to keep what is known as the fowl plague away, according to a federal release.

The sweet pastries posed potential risks because of the raw eggs inside from China and or other Southwest Asian counties that are hosts to the disease, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection release.

The egg products can play host to two diseases including the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND), according to the release. The diseases pose a threat to U.S. agriculture and humans, according to the release.

HPAI, known as the fowl plague, causes severe respiratory distress leading to organ failure and hemorrhaging. The strain is highly lethal to domesticated birds, and some strains are just as dangerous to humans, with a 60 percent mortality rate, according to the release.

Virulent Newcastle Disease is an acute respiratory disease with a high fatality rate in poultry birds. Agricultural specialists want to keep the disease out of the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confiscated 1,272 pounds of mooncakes and 359 pounds of other prohibited items in an operation named Special Operation Over the Moon.

The timing of the operation coincided with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which was celebrated on Oct. 1. It’s the second-largest festival in China. The more than 3,000-year-old festival, also known as the mooncake festival, celebrates a bountiful harvest.

The treats filled with lotus seed or bean paste and salted duck egg yolks are given to family and business associates in China during the celebration, according to the release.

Federal inspections of freight from China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia was intensified for four days to spot the mooncakes, according to the release. They can cost up to hundreds of dollars each, according to the release.

Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie lauded the work the specialists he oversees do daily.

“Our Cincinnati agriculture specialists consistently display exceptional work ethic and dedication,” Gillespie said.

Customs and Border Protection employs about 2,500 agricultural specialists in U.S. ports. 

“Our specialists perform a critical border security role in safeguarding America’s agricultural and natural resources from harmful pests, and plant and animal diseases,” said supervisory agriculture specialist Barbara Hassan.

About 4,695 prohibited items are stopped from entering the country on a typical day by the specialists, according to the release.

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