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Invasive fruit fly quarantine impacts farmers' markets, grocers in St. Pete

Last week, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced a large portion of Pinellas County was under quarantine.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — A quarantine was established Friday for parts of the St. Petersburg area, halting the transportation of fruits, vegetables, and nuts without approval from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The state department confirmed the presence of Oriental fruit flies. 

"The fly infests over 430 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts by laying its eggs in the hosts, making them unmarketable," FDACS wrote in a statement.

RELATED: Invasive flies lead to quarantine over fears about fruits and veggies in St. Pete

Under the quarantine, these types of foods are not supposed to be moved or transported anywhere unless FDACS allows it.

Credit: FDACS

However, fruits and vegetables within the quarantined area are still being sold. 

The state agriculture department said this quarantine mostly impacts people selling fruits and vegetables outdoors, or companies that leave crates of food outdoors.

"In the Pinellas County area, that [quarantine] area is primarily residential," said Bryan Benson, the deputy director of the State Agriculture Department's division of plant industry. 

Benson said his office will be reaching out to nurseries and stock dealers to address compliance.

"That compliance is set up to not shut down markets or nurseries or stock dealers but to give them guidelines that they comply with to move their fruits and vegetables," Benson said. "On the market side, the main concern is open-air markets where you have fruit outdoor and exposed to the environment where fruit flies to potentially land."

Benson said they don't want to shut down businesses for failure to comply with the quarantine order, but doing so can result in a $5,000 fine. 

"We'll probably have compliance agreements to most everybody in the quarantine area within the first lifecycle of the fruit flies, I would say within the next 30 days," Benson said. "We have about five people working on a regulatory team."

10 Tampa Bay spoke with multiple produce sellers in the St. Pete area, and all were unaware a quarantine was in place.

The current quarantine will be in place for at least three months, which is three life cycles of a fruit fly. 

RELATED: Portion of Pasco County quarantined over giant African land snail sighting

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