Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Chicago on Sept. 10 seized a shipment arriving from Shenzhen, China, that contained 500,000 N95 counterfeit respirator masks, federal officials announced Monday.
CBP officers with the Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team seized the shipment bound for a company in Manalapan, New Jersey, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport last week.
The officers removed 30 masks from the shipment and sent the items to West Virginia to be tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Results showed that 10 percent of the tested N95 masks had a filter efficiency rating below 95 percent.
The shipment was then seized under Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Adulterated or Misbranded Products, officials said in a release.
“Our CBP officers working with partners in HSI were able to stop these faulty masks from being sold under the guise of fully protecting Americans,” said Shane Campbell, port director for the Chicago area. “These masks did not meet the safety standards outlined by the CDC, which puts the public at risk, jeopardizing the health and well-being of everyone.”
An appraisal established the domestic value of the masks to be $3,074,385, well above its manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $474,905, due to the high demand of masks amid the ongoing CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The shipment of counterfeit masks has been handed over to the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arm for further enforcement and investigation, officials said.
“Certain organizations are attempting to exploit the limited supply of and increased demand for some pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical goods required to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CBP said in a statement. “Among other products, these criminals are smuggling and selling counterfeit safety equipment, unapproved COVID-19 test kits, unproven medicines, and substandard hygiene products through the online marketplace.”
The federal agency said it is working to target imports and exports that may contain counterfeit or illicit goods.
“The products in targeted shipments often include false or misleading claims, lack required warnings, or lack proper approvals,” the CBP said.
It comes after the Justice Department in June announced that it had charged a Chinese manufacturer with exporting nearly half a million defective masks claiming to meet the N95 standard.
King Year Packaging and Printing Co. Ltd manufactured 495,200 faulty and misbranded masks that claimed to be N95 respirators and sent the products to the United States for sale, prosecutors said on June 5. The department said that the masks fell well below N95 filtration standards.
In early May, the FDA barred more than 60 N95-type mask manufacturers in China from exporting to the United States, after testing found that many of their products were far short of quality standards.
Amid the CCP virus pandemic, a slew of countries outside of the United States, from Finland to the Netherlands, have either recalled or sent back back faulty masks, test kits, and protective suits from Chinese manufacturers.
Cathy He contributed to this report.