A forgotten sandwich in a backpack has turned into a costly nightmare for an elderly New Zealand retiree.
June Armstrong, 77, bought a gluten-free muffin and chicken lettuce sandwich at Christchurch Airport before catching an early morning flight to Brisbane in May.
She ate the muffin and put the sealed sandwich in her backpack to eat during the three and a half hour flight.
Ms. Armstrong fell asleep during the flight and completely forgot about the uneaten meal hidden in her bag.
Then when she filled out the customs declaration form, she completely forgot to declare it.
It was only when she was confronted by Australian Border Force officers who searched her backpack upon arrival that she realized her costly mistake.
She broke down in tears at the airport after receiving a hefty fine.
June Armstrong (pictured) hopes her costly ordeal will be a lesson for other travelers
“I was sobbing and said ‘$3,300 for a small sandwich?’ she told the New Zealand Herald.
Ms Armstrong attempted to appeal the fine within the 28-day payment deadline, but after a series of automated responses, she ended up paying it to meet the deadline.
“My husband kept saying, ‘Pay him.’ I said, “It’s our pension, we can’t afford it.”
Six months later, Ms Armstrong is still contesting the fine, which has caused her physical and mental consequences.
“I think about it night and day, I now take sleeping pills,” she wrote in her submission to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
“I am consumed by the amount of this fine and the impact it will have on our lives.”
It was only when authorities searched her backpack at Brisbane Airport that she realized her costly mistake of failing to declare a chicken and lettuce sandwich.
Yet with no response from Australian authorities, Ms Armstrong accepted the likely possibility that the fine would not be overturned.
But she hopes her ordeal will serve as a warning to other travelers.
“I should let it go, and my husband says I should, but they just don’t give me any answers,” Ms. Armstrong said.
“Everyone I show the fine to is stunned, they just can’t believe it.”
Travelers bringing food into Australia must declare it on their incoming passenger card.
“Biosecurity officers may need to inspect certain foods you bring with you,” the ABF website states.
Although baked goods may be imported into Australia for personal consumption, they must not contain preserved meat or animal products.
If a traveler fails to declare items known to present a “high level of biosecurity risk”, a violation notice can be up to 12 points (worth $3,756) “depending on the risk presented by the goods” .
Canterbury pensioner June Armstrong has spent the last six months contesting the fine