The ‘snail mail’ was likely an attempt to smuggle illegal escargot.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated June 21, 2017
invasive snail mail
Credit: Courtesy of  U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Who hasn’t occasionally got a craving for a foreign delicacy? However, if you’re hankering happens to be for seven pounds of contraband Mediterranean snails, US Customs and Border Patrol wants you to know they have their eye on you.

Earlier this week, CBP in Philadelphia announced that it had confiscated seven pounds of live chocolate-band snails in an express international parcel going from Italy to Hartford, Connecticut. The contents were labeled – of all things – as “shoes and honey.” Indeed, an image of the opened shipment showed that the snails were somewhat clumsily packaged in two old, taped up shoeboxes – except for those determined snails who were already trying to escape, of course. Traces of honey, meanwhile, are nowhere to be seen. Maybe saying the package contained “shoes and chocolate” would have been a bit more mischievous?

Beyond simply finding a bizarre and incorrectly declared package, CBP agriculture specialists were especially concerned seeing as this Eobania vermiculata species of the terrestrial chocolate-band snail is considered an invasive one. The snails are a “potentially serious threat as a pest,” according to the Texas Invasive Species Institute, which can attack vineyards and crops. “Therefore it has been suggested that this species be given top national quarantine significance in the United States.” Yes, extra thanks to the CBP for helping to protect our wine!

“Seven pounds of live snails is a unique find, and an example of the vigilance demonstrated by Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists in protecting our nation’s agricultural industries,” said Shawn Polley, Acting CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Baltimore. After being discovered, the shipment was quarantined and sent to a USDA entomologist. CBP also issued a violation to the package’s cosignee for mis-manifesting the snails as “shoes and honey.”

As to why they were shipped in the first place, chocolate-band snails – which are native to the Mediterranean – are edible and used for food in Europe. But that said, if you happen to see a “chocolate-band snail soup” special on the menu at an Italian restaurant in Hartford, you may want to inquire about their sourcing methods.