South Africa: Don't Give Snail Liquid to Babies - It Could Contain Parasites

Would "snail liquid" fed to babies give them remarkable health benefits for the rest of their lives? There's no evidence for this, and it could be harmful.

A Facebook post by Ola's Fish and Snail Agro Farming in Lagos, Nigeria promises "good health" to "each family" from the liquid extracted from snails.

"When a child is born, after at least 1 month, find a snail, break its sharp end, collect the liquid that comes out, give to drink to the child," it reads. It says the liquid should be taken once a month until the child is five years old.

It claims a range of benefits from snail liquid: the child is protected from cancer, haemorrhoids, nervous disorder, heart attack, asthma and coughing where "blood comes out of the throat".

Children fed the liquid will also "reason like a wise man", speak without stuttering, and have a harder head than those denied the substance, the post says.

And if children aren't given snail liquid, after 30 years they will be wrinkled and look "older than their parents".

The post includes a photo of a hand holding a large snail shell, which is dripping a brown liquid into a spoon.

Brown liquid likely contaminated

According to a CNN news report from 2011, snail farming is commonly carried out in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub.

Snails are members of the mollusc group of animals, which includes octopuses, clams and oysters. Prof Kirsten Benkendorff, a researcher of marine science at Southern Cross University in Australia, is working on the use of marine molluscs for human medicine. Benkendorff told Africa Check she was "unaware of specific scientific evidence to support that Facebook post".

Benkendorff said extracts of marine snails have been shown to have some anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, but African snails have other benefits.

"There is some evidence the hemolymph (blood) of the giant African snail has some antimicrobial properties but the hemolymph should be clear with bluish colour. The mucus is also antibacterial but this is white clear and an external secretion."

Benkendorff noted that the liquid in the post's photo was dark. "The 'liquid' they seem to be collecting by cutting the end off the shell in this post is very brown in colour - so likely is contaminated with the digestive gland or other fluids. There appear to be no scientific studies on this liquid."

No peer-reviewed scientific studies

"The snail flesh and associated lipid extracts could contain polyunsaturated fatty acids which have some health benefits, but there are no peer-reviewed scientific studies that document this for the giant African snail and certainly not for the liquid described in the Facebook account," Benkenfdorff said.

The professor concluded with a warning. "So at present I would say there is not enough evidence to support the claims made on this snail liquid and I would also be very concerned about feeding it to young children because snails can carry some parasites." - Vincent Ng'ethe

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