About 170000 counterfeit masks from China are seized by border officials.

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A shipment of over 170,000 fake N95 respirator masks at Houston Seaport, Texas, on April 7, 2021. (Customs and Border Protection)

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported on Thursday that it had halted a shipment of over 170,000 counterfeit N95 masks from China, with an approximate retail value of nearly $350,000.

According to a statement, CBP officers working at Houston Seaport on April 7 intercepted the shipment, which was en route to White Plains, New York.

They discovered 171,460 masks in boxes bearing the logo of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a government agency in the United States charged with making recommendations to avoid work-related injury and illness.
When CBP officers approached the trademark holder, they were informed that the shipment had not been authorised. CBP determined that the masks were fake and turned them over to its Fines, Penalties, and Forfeiture office to be disposed of.

“Not only do counterfeit products damage the productivity of American manufacturers, but they also pose significant health and safety risks to American consumers,” Houston CBP Port Director Roderick Hudson said in a statement. “In this case, these fake N95 respirators may be ineffective at removing airborne particles.”

He described how people looking for personal protective equipment would avoid buying counterfeit or unapproved goods.

“A few easy measures that customers can take to avoid being unwitting victims of those peddling counterfeit products include purchasing goods only from reputable retailers. When shopping online, he recommends reading the seller’s feedback and looking for a working U.S. phone number and a U.S. address that can be used to contact the seller.

In the first three months of 2021, CBP confiscated 18 million counterfeit masks. CBP noted that in fiscal year 2020, it confiscated approximately 12 million counterfeit masks, compared to just 1,300 counterfeit masks in fiscal year 2019.

CBP has confiscated 2.1 million counterfeit masks in the Houston area alone, a “significant increase” from the 365,000 counterfeit masks seized in 2020.

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