U.S. officials confiscated 67 giant African snails at the Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, citing a triple threat to public health, agriculture and the economy.
The snails, weighing 35 pounds total and coming from Nigeria, are prohibited in the U.S. because, among other things, they carry parasites that can lead to meningitis in humans. The snails were later destroyed by incineration.
The giant snails are considered a delicacy in Africa, where they are used to make soups and stews. Paperwork accompanying the package indicated that the snails were destined for human consumption.
After a sample was sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and experts identified the type of snail that had arrived in Los Angeles, officials called the species an agricultural pest.
“These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to,” said Maveeda Mirza, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture program manager.
She added that the person to whom the snails were sent would probably not be penalized, although officials were looking into why anyone would want so many of them.
“We’re investigating what happened, but it doesn’t seem like there was smuggling involved. When someone doesn’t know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations, there is usually no punishment,” Mirza said.© Food Safety News