Giant African snails seized at Los Angeles airport
LOS ANGELES - Agence France-Presse
This undated photo provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows a person using two hands to hold a single snail from an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014. AP PhotoU.S. Customs and Border protection inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized 67 live giant African snails that are a popular delicacy across West Africa.
The snails, which are prohibited in the U.S., arrived from Nigeria and were being sent to a person in California, said Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for the customs agency.
Officials said the mollusks are among the largest land snails in the world and can grow to be up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) long. They are native to Africa and can live for up to 10 years. The pricey snails can cost $50 to feed a dinner party of six in Lagos, Nigeria.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated the snails after they were inspected, Harty said. Officials said the snails are prohibited in the U.S. because they can carry parasites that are harmful to humans, including one that can lead to meningitis.
The snails are also agricultural pests, said Maveeda Mirza, the CBP program manager for agriculture.
"These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to," Mirza said.
The person who the snails were destined for is not expected to face any penalties, Mirza said. She said authorities are investigating why one person would want so many snails.
"We're investigating what happened, but it doesn't seem like there was smuggling involved," she said.
Although the agency has found one or two snails that may have accidentally gotten into a traveler's luggage in Los Angeles, this is the first time that they have confiscated the snails in such a large quantity, Mirza said.