There are still some concerns about whether the handling of giant African land snails is safe. Following a letter that I sent into Mollusc World earlier this year, a formal response is to be printed in its November issue, from Drs. Janet Ridout Sharpe and June Chatfield. It will read as follows:
‘Sarah Lucas (Letter, Mollusc World 32:28) is quite right to be concerned that giant African land snails (Achatina spp.) might transmit diseases to humans. Fortunately the risk from laboratory-bred or pet shop snails in this country is negligible, and the simple precaution of washing the hands thoroughly or the use of antibiotic wipes after handling (not just Achatina but any snails or slugs) is probably sufficient to prevent the transmission of bacteria. There is no reason why children (and adults) should not continue to enjoy handling snails.’
Earlier this week I received an email from a lady who is 23 weeks pregnant. She was concerned that her partner’s giant African land snails might prove a risk to her unborn baby, by her catching either the salmonella and meningitis virus. I was able to put her mind at rest. With her specific concern about salmonella, I had been advised by Dr. June Chatfield that proper hand-washing here is important, as is avoiding cooked snails: raw or hardly-cooked snails could cause a serious problem to anyone, not just to a lady who is pregnant.
For all you snail lovers out there, carry on enjoying your snails. Just make sure that you always wash your hands.