Washing ~ Cooking ~ Freezing

Practicing diligent food hygiene and proper cooking methods are the single most effective way to avoid contracting this disease.

The infection is caused most commonly by accidentally eating a slug that is hidden in raw produce, especially lettuce or leafy greens. Slugs may be quite small, like a grain of rice, and very difficult to spot in the folds of a leaf.

The best way to remove the slug is to wash fruits and veggie with forcefully running water, scrub those with hard skins, and inspect each leaf. What is most effective is the force of the running water to physically remove the slugs. It may sound tedious but hey, your family’s health is worth it. (Anybody remember when we use to take the same time and attentiveness in washing pesticide residue from our children’s salad?)

What about solutions and dips? 

Studies done at UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy have shown plain running water to be just as effective as solutions like salt water, vinegar, etc. And it is the force of the water that is effective at removing slugs, so produce dips are not recommended. However, if you have a large amount of leaves to wash, one method to consider is a salty ice-water dip before rinsing with running water; the cold and salt will cause slugs to curl up and release their attachment to the leaf, so they’re easier to rinse off.

What about the slime trail? 

While it is possible that the slime trail of a slug or snail may contain a small number of worms, the consensus seems to be that it is very unlikely to be enough to make you sick. Eating an actual slug gives you a high enough dose of the parasite to cause symptoms. So if you see a slug trail on a leaf or vegetable, you probably want to scrub it well or not eat that part, but you don’t need be worried about finding and scrubbing every trail; focus mainly on washing off the actual slugs.

[Demo video coming soon]

Wash and inspect each leaf of lettuce. Scrub squash, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes.

Clean and properly cook prawns, crabs, ‘opae, frogs, vegetables, (165°) or freeze for 24 – 48 hours. Cooking kills the parasite, so any produce or freshwater shellfish that is thoroughly steamed, boiled, baked or fried is safe to eat. (The parasite is not known to be found in salt-water shellfish like ‘opihi or ‘a‘ama crab.) Freezing kills the parasite, so if you want to have raw leafy greens like kale in your smoothie, for example, you can rinse as above and then freeze the leaves first to be sure they are safe.

Store food in sealed containers after washing.

Adopting these hygienic practices daily will become second nature in a short time and will reduce the risk of interaction and exposure to the parasite.

Pets and livestock

Pets and livestock can also be susceptible to rat lungworm infections. Make sure your pet food is stored in seal containers safe from slugs, store food bowls in a safe place between feedings, and rinse bowls out before feeding. There is some confidence that the Heartworm/flea treatment Trifexis is an added protection for dogs on a regular maintenance schedule. Please stay alert to your pets areas and activities on your property. Bring dog dishes in at night and clean them. Puppies with developing nervous systems, and chew on everything are at greater risk but my full grown dogs enjoy chewing on grass also. Cats often chew on grass to aid digestion.