Airport inspectors seize 5 kg of Asian snails from Thai workers

As hosts of a particular nematode, the snails — commonly eaten in South Asia — can cause meningitis in humans

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

South Asian snails confiscated from incoming Thai workers at Ben Gurion Airport, February 2024. (Agriculture Ministry).
South Asian snails confiscated from incoming Thai workers at Ben Gurion Airport, February 2024. (Agriculture Ministry).

Five kilograms (11 pounds) of large Asian snails were confiscated from two Thai workers entering Israel, in a swoop by Agriculture Ministry inspectors at Ben Gurion Airport.

The workers told ministry inspectors that the edible snails, brought in frozen, were for their own personal consumption.

The snails, from the genus Filopaludina, are common in South Asia and especially in Thailand, where they are eaten. But as hosts of a particular nematode, they can cause meningitis in humans.

The confiscation took place last month, but the incidents were only reported Sunday after the snails had been accurately identified, an Agriculture Ministry spokesman said.

A ministry statement said such a big catch of these types of snails was “unprecedented,” noting nine incidents over the past 20 years in which attempts to smuggle such snails had been stymied.

The entry into Israel of alien species of flora and fauna can wreak havoc on local species.

This particular snail, the ministry said, could cause damage to agriculture.

Since the beginning of December, inspectors have seized plant materials from 25 foreign workers entering the country.

Shlomit Zioni, the ministry’s Director of Plant Protection, said, “The Ministry of Agriculture welcomes the return of foreign workers to the State of Israel, especially in the field of agriculture.”

“At the same time, there is concern that these workers will introduce plants or snails into the country from their place of residence, which… could cause a lot of damage.”

The ministry was asking employers to tell their foreign workers not to bring fresh agricultural produce into the country, she said.

Thousands of foreign workers left Israel after October 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded the country and went on a killing spree. Some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, were murdered — including foreign workers — and 253 were abducted to the Gaza Strip.

With farmhands and the construction industry short of foreign labor, the government is trying to get the laborers to return.

While  9,948 foreign workers left the country after October 7, 6,346  entered between that date and January 28, according to government figures.

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