Feds seek new ways to spot illicit opioids mailed into U.S.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The federal government is enlisting the help of the private sector to develop better ways to spot and intercept illicit opioids shipped into the United States through the mail.

Several federal agencies on Thursday awarded a $500,000 prize to a Massachusetts firm that developed an improved way to scan and analyze the contents of mail for illegal shipments of drugs such as fentanyl, much of which is shipped from China.

The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Postal Service and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy chose the winners of the Opioid Detection Challenge, a global competition that drew more than 80 entrants since its February announcement.

The goal: Develop new or better ways to find and seize illicit drug shipments at mail processing facilities without unduly slowing down global commerce. Authorities said the U.S. handles more than 480 million international parcels a year through its mail intake facilities.

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