Yesterday I mentioned rumors of a new anti-cheese crackdown at China's ports of entry. Now this chilling confirmation from a reader:
I also live in Beijing, and, like you, I tend to bring back cheese with me from my trips out of the country. But recently, while traveling back from Spain right after Chinese New Year, I, too, encountered the beagle brigade. Having never seen them before we weren't sure if they were after drugs or food, but when one came to our cart as we waited for our luggage at the carousel and sat down, we knew it was a "food beagle". The agent asked us if we had "food", to which I ventured a meek "yes, a bit", and he asked to see our bag. As it happens, all that we had at that point was our carry on baggage and one suitcase, with our remaining suitcase--the one containing several kilos of ham, chorizo, and cheese--revolved around the carousel, but among our carry ons was a duty free bad from Barcelona airport that contained one wheel of cheese and some turron. The agent confiscated the cheese without a word of explanation, and then asked if there was anything else. We volunteered the turron, but that was not an issue, and then he asked me to open my camera bag. When that proved to have no contraband they moved on, we grabbed the remaining suitcase off the carousel and high-tailed it out of there. But before we got too far, a Chinese guy who had seen the episode told us that there is now a ban on importing dairy products, though why that was the case--and why the agent did not explain it to us--is a mystery.
I have heard stories about other people bringing cheese who had their kids play with the beagle to distract it, and I know of someone else who managed to bring in quite a bit of NZ cheese a few weeks ago, so implementation of the new rule is--surprise!!--sporadic.
The crucial word here is of course "mystery." (Second-crucial word is "sporadic.") Maybe China could be cracking down on imported dairy products because of its own recent tainted-milk scandals. Except, that would make no sense at all. (So, your own country's milk supply is questionable, and the rest of the world makes this stuff in abundance and without quality problems; plus, you have a gigantic trade surplus. So.... suddenly it's important to keep foreign cheese out??) In any case, I will scratch off "load up on cheese!" from the last-minute list of items to cram into the suitcase on my way to the airport. Coffee is still on the list, though. And if only good beer came in freeze-dried form....