If you’re waiting for your illegal Italian snail dish at your favorite Italian restaurant in New Jersey, you might have to wait. That’s because on Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Specialists at the port of Memphis, Tennessee, intercepted four kilograms of live snails from Italy en route to New Jersey.
“The shipment from the Sicilian city of Palermo was manifested as olives, chocolate cream candies and bread. However, an x-ray inspection revealed anomalies in the shipment, and the box of snails was discovered along with the other permissible food items,” police reported.
U.S. Department of Agriculture identified the snails as Theba pisana, commonly known as white garden snail, white Italian snail, Mediterranean coastal snail, or simply the Mediterranean snail. It is a common, edible species of medium-sized, air-breathing land snail. It is a prohibited pest under 7 CFR 330.200 (organism restrictions) and was referred for destruction.
The snails are deemed an extremely invasive pest and could have wreaked havoc if allowed to be released and propagate.
“This species of mollusk is deemed as a serious pest due to its ability to rapidly aggregate. They can defoliate large trees, such as citrus, and may also consumes grain crops. Mollusks can also spread infections when feeding on crops by infecting the grain with a secondary fungal pathogen. The snails were destroyed by steam sterilization under the supervision of CBP agriculture specialists,” the CBP said in a statement.
“Our agriculture specialists are highly skilled in preventing shippers’ attempts to circumvent U.S. laws and regulations regarding agriculture importations,” said Acting Area Port Director Michael R. Johnson. “Judging from the plethora of Italian restaurants near the snail’s destination, they may have ended up on someone’s plate, but they were both a restricted organism and mis-manifested. U.S. laws need to be followed and my officers are there to vigilantly enforce them.”