U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport seized 15 live giant African snails from a passenger’s luggage in early July.
The snails arrived from Nigeria. The passenger initially only declared dried beef, but later amended her declaration to include live snails, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection release.
While examining the passenger’s luggage, the agriculture specialists found three plastic bags containing the live snails with fresh leaves and about 0.25 pounds of beef, according to the release.
The agency turned over the snails to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which identified them as Giant Land Snails, also known as Giant African Snails.
The snails pose a health risk to humans. Giant Land Snails are known carriers of rat lungworm, a parasitic nematode that transmits eosinophilic meningitis.
The snails are also agricultural pests classified as an invasive species in Texas. According to Texas Invasives, the snails reproduce rapidly and can lay as many as 1,200 eggs annually. With an enormous appetite and aggressive behavior, the giant African snail is considered one of the most damaging snails in the world.
“Our agriculture specialists remain vigilant in protecting the U.S. from foreign animal and plant disease that could threaten U.S. crop production and livestock industry or be transmitted to humans,” said Houston CBP Port Director Shawn Polley.
On a typical day in 2020, agriculture specialists with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency found 250 pests at U.S. ports of entry. Passengers interested in carrying food into the U.S. should declare agriculture items including fruits and vegetables, plants and cut flowers, meat and animal products and live animals, the agency stated in the release.