Several treated after ingesting snail mucus in religious ritual
Religious rites are as varied as the religions that employ them. Traditional Western religions have long used wine as their official sacrament of choice, while other religions established in different parts of the world have adopted the more exotic. One such African religion uses the mucus of giant African snails, which sickened several devotees and the thought of such quaff is enough to make most Westerners queasy, to say the least.
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.