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Why a free apple may end up costing one traveler $500

It pays to pay attention to those in-flight videos.
/ Source: TODAY

With airlines cutting meals across the board, it's easy to get hungry on an international (or any) flight. But beware, travelers: forgotten fruit may land you a hefty fine at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

On Wednesday, Colorado resident Crystal Tadlock was on a Delta Airlines flight from Paris, France, en route to the U.S. when a flight attendant offered her some fresh fruit as a snack. She accepted and put the apple, wrapped in a Delta-labeled bag, into her carry-on to enjoy during a connecting flight later, Fox 31 Denver reported.

Getty Images, Shutterstock

Upon entering the U.S., however, Tadlock's bag was randomly selected at Customs and that's when an agent reportedly noticed the undeclared apple inside.

"He had asked me if my trip to France was expensive and I said, 'yeah.' I didn’t really get why he was asking that question, and then he said 'It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500,'" Tadlock told Fox 31.

Tadlock said the agent wouldn't let her throw out or eat the apple in lieu of the fine.

Tadlock's ordeal is causing an uproar on social media: Some are outraged by the agent's actions, while some think the fine is just.

One tweeter felt the customs agent who found the apple abused his power.

Another wrote "the law is the law."

And one woman wrote that the incident was 100 percent the passenger's fault for "lying" on the claims form.

Not only could the fine cost Tadlock a hefty sum, but she may also lose her Global Entry Status, which costs $100. She told Fox 31 that she plans to fight the fine in court.

A lot of tweeters wrote they think that Delta should have reminded passengers that the free fruit needed to be eaten immediately or to claim it at Customs.

A Delta spokesperson confirmed to TODAY Food that the fining incident did occur but noted that the videos on the airline's in-flight entertainment system outlines the information needed for Customs' processing. The airline also "recommends" its passengers comply with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection rules and regulations.

One tweeter defended the airline:

A sample customs declaration form reads, "Mark an X in the Yes or No box. Are you bringing with you: 1. Fruits, plants, food, or insects?"

For those who fail to claim non-commercial agricultural items, the Department of Homeland Security notes penalties range from $1,100 to $60,000, which is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Plant and Animal Protection Acts. While expensive fines may seem like an over-the-top reaction to a snack, U.S. Customs explains that unclaimed foods carrying pests or disease could cost much more in potential detriment to local crops and livestock which, if affected, could increase the prices of fruit, meat and dairy for consumers throughout the country.

So when it comes to travel abroad, put down that Kindle and listen to the airline safety video before take-off, do not depend on in-flight food to come with a "claim me" reminder and double check carry-ons for any food in your luggage before filling out the customs form.

Of course, if you're flying domestically, the rules are a little different. If you tend to get hangry while flying, the good news is that the TSA will allow you to bring an entire casserole on your flight.