Custom officials and Inspectors from the Agriculture Ministry’s Plant Protection and Inspection Services at the Ben Gurion Airport seized thousands of snails weighing 5 kilograms within 48 hours. The ministry said in a statement the snails are apparently used as food in the East, and were found in the possession of two Thai foreign workers returning to Israel.
The snails were found in the two’s personal luggage, and one of them also had a small number of dried plants as well. According to the workers, the snails were intended for their personal consumption. The snails and plants were confiscated and delivered to the Agriculture Ministry for further examination.
The Agriculture Ministry said that the snails belong to the Filopaludina snail species, which is listed on the ministry’s quarantine list. This species belongs to the Viviparidae family and isn’t allowed to be brought into the country.
The ministry also explained the snail species was common in South Asia and especially in Thailand, particularly in polluted waters and is considered highly resistant to ammonia levels. The snails are used as food in the region, but also transmit diseases due to their role as hosts of the nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which causes meningitis in humans. The species causes significant damage to water plants and can pose a threat to Israeli agriculture.
The Agriculture Ministry said that such a large-scale smuggling attempt with these types of snails is considered unprecedented. In the past 20 years, nine smuggling attempts of six different snail species and sub-species were foiled in 2005-2006, 2009, and 2013-2014. The smuggled snails, found primarily in plant nurseries, were removed.
Since the start of December 2023, the Agriculture Ministry has seized plant materials in the possession of 25 foreign workers from various locations intended for personal use. The ministry said that this exposes Israel's plants and ecological environment to the introduction of new pests. According to the ministry, this could have serious and irreversible consequences for agriculture and the ecological balance in the country.
Shlomit Zioni, head of the Agriculture Ministry's Plant Protection and Inspection Services, added, "The Agriculture Ministry welcomes the return of foreign workers to Israel, especially in the agricultural sector. However, there’s concern that these workers may bring in plants or pests from their home countries that are unfamiliar to Israel's ecological system, and which may cause severe damage.”