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BORDEN, P.E.I. — The first two truckloads of P.E.I. potatoes were prevented from crossing at the Houlton, Me. border late Monday after U.S. inspectors apparently found soil in the shipments.

The loads were expected to be the first to make it across the border since the U.S. placed a ban on the Island’s spuds after a potato wart was discovered last fall.

The loads were inspected again yesterday.

U.S. officials are worried that the dirt residue may contain the spoor of the wart, even though the potatoes have been deemed free of the disease that renders the potatoes unmarketable. The wart is highly contagious, and can be carried by soil, but is absolutely harmless to humans.

“They said there was a little bit of dirt in the eyes of the potatoes,” says Ivan Noonan of the P.E.I. Potato Board. “They weren’t sure if it’s the right tolerance or not.

“They’re just flexing their muscles a little bit.”

Noonan explains Island producers knew the Americans would go over the first few shipments “with a fine-tooth comb.” He was hopeful the truck will eventually be allowed to cross the border.

Trucks of potatoes from P.E.I. have been turned back twice since the U.S. supposedly agreed–twice–to ease restrictions on the vegetables.

Shipments now must pass a barrage of tests before the U.S. will agree to allow them into the country.

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