Several treated after ingesting snail mucus in religious ritual

Devotees in Miami, Florida, who follow the preaching of what a man claims to be an African religion, became ill enough to call paramedics after ingesting snail mucus.

Federal authorities began investigating Charles L. Stewart after an incident in January when followers were sickened.

So far Stewart has not been criminally charged, but several agencies from the state and the federal government, including wildlife authorities, are investigating the use of mucus from giant African snails in rituals. Stewart admitted smuggling the snails into Florida, according to authorities.

The giant African snail is banned in the United States except by permit under special circumstances. It grows up to 10 inches in length, is known for devastating ecosystems where it has been introduced, reproduces by self-generation, and can even eat through plaster, experts said.

The people who became violently ill after ingesting the snail mucus reported symptoms of weight loss and developed what they described as strange lumps in their stomachs.

Stewart said he means no harm to anyone or anything, and claims the mucus from the giant African snails have healing power, which is why it’s used in his religious ceremonies.

ssand

Sandy Sand began her writing career while raising three children and doing public relations work for Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). That led to a job as a reporter for the San Fernando Valley Chronicle, a weekly publication in Canoga Park, Calif. In conjunction with the Chronicle, she broadcast a tri-weekly, ten minute newscast for KGOE AM.

Following the closure of the Chronicle's doors (after serving the West Valley as a community newspaper for nearly 50 years), Sand became the editor of the Tolucan Times and Canyon Crier newspapers in Burbank. She is currently a guest columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News, and community correspondent and op-ed writer for ronkayela.com.