Crystal Tadlock was traveling from Paris back to the U.S. when toward the end of her flight, a Delta flight attendant passed out apples, she told KDVR, a local FOX affiliate in Colorado. She said she wasn't hungry and decided to save the snack for the last leg of her trip back to Denver.
She was randomly stopped going through Customs, she said, and an agent found the piece of fruit, which was inside a plastic bag with Delta's logo on it.
"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 KDVR.
The KDVR report didn't specify where the Customs search occurred or what date it happened.
She asked if she could just throw the apple out or eat it but said the agent handed her a $500 fine. Tadlock said she's frustrated about the ticket and that Delta did not warn passengers about not taking the food off the plane.
"It's really unfortunate someone has to go through that and be treated like a criminal over a piece of fruit," she told KDVR.
When contacted by USA TODAY, a Delta spokesperson would not comment specifically on the incident but said the company encourage its customers "to adhere to Customs and Border Protection policies and requirements."
U.S. Customs said in a statement that the agency does not discuss details of specific inspections but "all agriculture items must be declared" and penalties can be as high as $1,000.
The agency lists the policy for bringing food into the U.S. on its website and says the strict policy is designed to prevent against plant pests and foreign animal diseases entereing the U.S.
Tadlock said she has a choice between paying the citation and fighting in court. She told the TV station she plans to bring the matter before a judge.