LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Two reindeer have been detained at Los Angeles International Airport, but an overweight man wearing red with a white beard is still at large.

Actually, the two reindeer were decorative figures made of grass containing seeds and were seized by customs agents as a precaution against spreading microbial blights.

The decorative items were found in the luggage of a passenger arriving from El Salvador this week, and an agriculture specialist with Customs and Border Protection determined the grass seeds were viable and showed signs of being diseased, agents said.

“CBP enforces hundreds of laws, including all (U.S. Department of Agriculture) regulations,” said Carlos Martel, the acting director of CBP in Los Angeles. “Our agriculture specialists … take an aggressive approach to prevent potential plant pest and disease threats to U.S. agriculture.”

CBP agents want to remind holiday travelers crossing international borders not to bring food, plants or any living thing into the United States without first getting a USDA certificate.

In fiscal 2009, CBP seized more than 1.5 million prohibited food, plant and animal products, including 166,727 agricultural pests.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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