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A shipment of snails intended for human consumption has been seized at Los Angeles International Airport.
Officials said that U.S. Customs and Border protection inspectors seized 67 live giant African snails — a popular delicacy across West Africa but prohibited in the U.S. — on July 1 after they arrived from Nigeria. A spokesperson said they were being sent to a person in San Dimas, Calif.
After the snails were confiscated, a sample was sent the next day to a federal mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C., who identified them as a prohibited species.
Officials said the mollusks are among the largest land snails in the world and can grow to be up to 8 inches 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.
While the snails escaped being eaten, they still suffered a deadly fate: The USDA incinerated the creatures after they were inspected. 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.
Authorities are investigating why a single person would want so many snails but said it doesn’t appear that smuggling was involved.
“When someone doesn’t know a commodity is prohibited under USDA regulations there is usually no punishment,” a spokesperson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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