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Florida Says Its Fruits, Vegetables Are Safe From Invasive Fruit Fly

Stephen Jenner, from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, sprays an insecticide under an avocado tree where some Oriental fruit flies were found on September 9, 2015 in Homestead, Fla. After months fighting a fruit fly infestation, Florida has declared the insect has been eradicated.

Florida's avocados, papayas, tomatoes, mangoes, peaches, passionfruit and peppers are safe — along with more than 400 other fruits and vegetables.

They'd all been threatened by the Oriental fruit fly, an invasive pest that infested farmlands in Miami-Dade County last fall.

As of Saturday, the state has declared the insect eliminated.

Florida's Department of Agriculture has been working to contain and eliminate the outbreak since September, by quarantining affected areas and destroying infested fruits.

The Oriental fruit fly was particularly worrying for state officials because of the wide range of crops it can affect. The vulnerable plants represent 95 percent of south Florida's crops, according to the Miami Herald, and the tiny insect imperiled a $1.6 billion agricultural industry.

Last fall, NPR's Greg Allen reported on the infestation:

"Florida's agriculture commissioner, Adam Putnam, has declared a state of emergency and ordered fruit stripped and destroyed in areas where the flies have been found. ... The fruit fly, Putnam says, "feeds on the fruit. It pierces it, lays its eggs, causes obviously a very unpleasant condition in that fruit when those eggs are laid in there."

"Inspectors have found about 160 Oriental fruit flies so far, but counts have been dropping, which may be a sign the eradication measures are working."

Now three months have gone by with no sign of the pest.

But declaring the quarantine over doesn't mean the state is lowering its guard, Greg reported yesterday for our Newscast unit.

"Florida says it will continue to monitor more than 50,000 traps it has throughout the state and quickly take action if it identifies fruit flies that threaten crops," he says.

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