Australia Fines Airline Passenger Nearly $2k After Finding Two McMuffins in Their Bag

  • How much are your breakfast sandwiches worth to you? Probably not this much.

It’s always important to check local regulations when you’re traveling. You might otherwise accidentally end up committing an expensive violation.

One globetrotter on their way from Bali, Indonesia, to Australia recently found that out the hard way. They got slapped with a nearly $2,000 fine for accidentally smuggling contraband items to Australia.

The unidentified person was making their way through the Darwin International Airport in northern Australia. Suddenly, they caught the attention of Zinta — the airport’s new biosecurity detector dog.

As Zinta’s sniffer had detected something in the traveler’s bags, the airport security personnel asked them to open their baggage. Lo and behold, the passenger was indeed transporting three heinously offending items.

Namely, two egg and sausage McMuffins from an Indonesian McDonald’s, alongside a ham croissant. Harrowing stuff.

Well, it’s easy for us to crack jokes about it, but the traveler probably isn’t in a laughing mood. For bringing the breakfast sandwiches to Australia, they received a fine of AUS$2,664 — or $1,874 in U.S. dollars.

In addition, they lost their breakfast. The security officials seized the sandwiches and the croissant, which will be tested for foot and mouth disease (FMD) before being destroyed.

We’d imagine fire will somehow be involved.

Detector dog Zinta at Darwin Airport. Photos courtesy of the Australian government.

‘The Most Expensive Maccas Meal’

The whole incident seems ridiculous, but the traveler probably should’ve been aware that foreign fast food is prohibited in Australia. After all, the country has notoriously draconian biosecurity measures in place.

“Biosecurity is no joke — it helps protect jobs, our farms, food, and supports the economy. Passengers who choose to travel need to make sure they are fulfilling the conditions to enter Australia, by following all biosecurity measures,” Murray Watt, Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry said in a statement.

“Australia is FMD-free, and we want it to stay that way,” he added.

Murray also praised the detector dog Zinta for her excellent performance in hunting down unauthorized sandwiches.

“Zinta was placed at Darwin Airport as part of the Albanese Government’s tough new biosecurity defenses, and it’s excellent to see she is already contributing to keeping the country safe,” said Murray.

As to the passenger transporting the McMuffins, Murray didn’t mince words. The minister clearly takes his job seriously and doesn’t pity hapless travelers.

“This will be the most expensive Maccas meal this passenger ever has,” Murray said, using the Australian nickname for Mickey D’s.

“This fine is twice the cost of an airfare to Bali, but I have no sympathy for people who choose to disobey Australia’s strict biosecurity measures.”

Sheesh. Calm down, Murray.

Be Careful with Your Bags

But then again, Minister Watt is just enforcing the law of the land. And what law it is.

Australia boasts some of the strictest biosecurity regulations in the world. Established by the Biosecurity Act 2015, Australia’s laws mean you basically bring anything that could be alive into the country — apart from yourself.

The Australian government and biosecurity experts argue that borderline dystopian security measures are necessary to protect Australia’s unique biodiversity. In a way, they make a good point.

As an island nation (or a small continent), Australia has plenty of animals, plants, and other forms of life that you can’t find anywhere else. Invasive species or diseases could quickly do significant harm.

But the laws do sometimes cause unintended side effects. For example, Katy Perry’s 2013 album Prism got momentarily banned in Australia.

That wasn’t because the authorities had a problem with Ms. Perry’s singing or anything. The album shipped with a small paper sheet containing flower seeds — and importing that to Australia is a big no-no.

Australia eventually allowed the sale of CDs and seed packets produced within the country. But you still can’t import versions of the album printed overseas.

In the end, the debacle probably only brought more publicity to Perry. But if you are planning to travel to Australia, here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of things you absolutely shouldn’t have in your bags:

  • Cheese or dairy products
  • Coffee
  • Honey
  • Meat products
  • Pet food
  • Pets (any of them)
  • Live plants
  • Seeds
  • McMuffins