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Ham-Size African Snails Seized at LAX a 'Serious Threat'

Confiscated snails
Confiscated snails USDA

Customs officials seized 67 humongous live African snails masquerading as escargot at Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. Customs & Border Protection said Monday — by far the biggest haul of the highly invasive pest at the airport. The ham-size mollusks, which can grow as large as 8 inches long, were quarantined and the customs agency was notified July 7 after they arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, in two baskets weighing more than 35 pounds.

Snails confiscated at LAX airport. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Although they were labeled as "Achatina fulica for human consumption," they're actually Archachatina marginata, which the customs agency described as "a very serious threat to our agriculture, natural ecosystem, public health and economy." The voracious snails "will even eat the paint and stucco off of houses," it said, and they can carry harmful parasites, one of which can cause meningitis in humans. The snails were transferred to the U.S. Agriculture Department for what the customs agency would only say was "final disposition."