Slug

A slug was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on board a shipment of mint from Mexico en route to Elkridge. (Photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection )

A stowaway slug that caught a free ride on a shipment of Mexican mint bound for Elkridge was intercepted at Washington Dulles International Airport as the first of its kind to be identified in the Washington region.

Considered a threat to crops and human health, it was captured — and the mint destroyed.

An entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the Philomycidae slug was a "new pest" for the region, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Friday.

The slug was discovered late last month in an 83-pound shipment of mint that had been flown into Dulles. Its destination in Elkridge was not identified.

Slugs can carry human pathogens, including parasitic nematodes that have become a worldwide problem, according to customs officials. They also "eat a wide variety of leafy plants causing damage and disease and potentially lowering crop yield," the agency said.

"This is another example of our agriculture specialists performing a thorough inspection and finding a new potential threat to the U.S. agriculture industry," said Christopher Hess, CBP Port Director for the Port of Washington, in a statement.

The slug was quarantined for inspection, while the importer of the mint shipment selected to destroy it through "steam sterilization" rather than pay to export it out of the country — the only options offered.

The customs agency said it inspects tens of thousands of passengers and air and sea cargoes nationally each day and seizes "4,379 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 440 insect pests."

krector@baltsun.com

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