Amazonian Snail Eating raw or half-raw snails has led to almost 40 people in Beijing coming down with meningitis, state media said on Monday and the same species is being blamed for destroying a huge swath of rice crops.

Around half of the victims had eaten a dish made with the Amazonian snails at a chain of Sichuan restaurants. “The large, black snails are a hot-selling aquatic product in big Chinese cities like Beijing,” the Xinhua news agency said, adding that those falling sick had been infected by parasitic eel worms. But the problem does not end there.

“Amazonian snails are now being blamed for killing crops on more than 1,60,000 hectare” (617 sq miles) in the southwestern autonomous region of Guangxi Zhuang, Xinhua said.

“Farmers near seven cities in Guangxi have reported an invasion of Amazonian snails in their paddy fields. Agricultural experts said rainy weather, brought by this summer’s typhoons, created ideal conditions for the snails,” it added.
China has been struggling to control a rise in the number of food-related health incidents.

In 2004, a major health scandal erupted when China revealed that at least 13 babies had died from malnutrition in the country’s impoverished eastern province of Anhui after being fed fake baby milk.

Several cases of bird flu in humans, which has infected 21 people, have been traced back to people eating sick birds.