Snail found in Big Island school lunch

Lunch might not ever be the same for a high school student on the Big Island.

He found a snail in his salad that was served in the cafeteria.

The principal of Kealakehe High School says he is taking this very seriously because the consequences go beyond just an unpleasant discovery.

The student found this little critter in his salad, which the principal says was washed properly by the cafeteria staff.

“We drain it strain it in a colander and go ahead and turn it into a salad. And in this particular case, one of the snails was lodged in one of the leaves,” Kealakehe High School Principal Wilfred Murakami said.

It is troubling because most snails and slugs contain parasites that can attack the nervous system, causing rat lungworm disease, which can be debilitating.

“They’ll have tremendous headache. They’ll have neck pain. All those generic signs that you associate with meningitis,” said Dr. Sarah Park, Hawaii state epidemiologist.

Dr. Park says in some cases it could take months even years of rehabilitation to recover.

“A lot of people can have long term complications, they can have residual ghost pain, they can have tingling, they can have other things, they can have weakness in the limbs, they can have headaches,” Dr. Park said.

Dr. Park emphasizes that fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy ones, should be washed thoroughly and stored in the refrigerator, so nothing can crawl on them.

Local farmers say there are also natural products like neem oil that can keep pests away.

“There are still bugs that get attracted by neem oil like caterpillars, so we have to wash those away, but it keeps away a lot of the pest problems like the slugs and the snails,” said William Miller of Otsuji Farms.

The school says it has notified the vendor, which is a farm in Kailua-Kona, and cafeteria staff will be more diligent in cleaning and inspecting the produce.

“To make sure that they examine the lettuce and other pieces of food and other kinds of vegetables, to make sure that none of these critters or insects get into it,” Murakami said.

The principal says the school services manager is also increasing the level of inspection at the cafeteria.

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