Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Equipment Safety
Real-life food safety, recall lessons

Foreign [object]relations

April 18, 2017  By Marg Land

A recent consumer news story had me both laughing and squirming with discomfort. The laughter was in response to the memory of a similar incident involving my children. The squirming was a basic, guttural human reaction.

The article involved a recall of bagged salad originally marketed in Walmart stores across the Southeastern region of the U.S. According to a news release from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), two people in Florida were enjoying a salad of spring mix lettuce [organic] when they happened to notice an extra garnish in the mix – a dead, decomposing bat.

I’m not sure how the two people reacted to this surprise discovery but I have a pretty good imagination. After all, my own response to reading the details involved gagging and I wasn’t even present for the meal.


As expected, official-types were soon involved and the bat remains were shipped off to the CDC rabies lab for “testing.” The results?

“The deteriorated condition of the bat did not allow for CDC to definitively rule out whether [it] had rabies,” the release stated.

Cue more squirming and gagging from me.

Now, the pair of Floridians is being “evaluated” by the CDC plus local and state health officials. Despite the low risk of rabies transmission, the two unsuspecting bat chewers have been advised to begin “post-exposure rabies treatment,” also known as a course of painful, really long needles [at least that’s what my parents always told me rabies shots were like].

Thankfully the incident involving my children did not include a bat – rabid or not. The starring role went to a smaller, livelier foreign object.

About a year ago, my family was gathered around the table for a typical Sunday evening meal when I happened to see something move out of the corner of my eye. I turned to get a better look, staring in disbelief as a large June bug – as big as a toonie – jumped off a piece of lettuce skewered on the tines of my daughter’s fork and trotted up the length of the utensil toward her hand. As you can imagine, bedlam ensued. Once the dust and leaf lettuce had settled and our unexpected dinner guest had been dispatched, we investigated, discovering that the giant bug had hitched a ride to our home in the bagged salad. Obviously, the rest of the leafy remains followed the surprise diner out the door. It took a while to calm my daughter, who spent an inordinate amount of time gargling water and spitting it out in the kitchen sink. Afraid the incident was going to put her off salad permanently, I played up how “lucky” she was to have happened upon the bug in her meal.

“That just doesn’t happen to everyone,” I told her.

“Well, it’s never happening to me,” my son – the carnivore – responded. “I knew there was a reason I don’t eat salad.”

Fortunately, it only took a week for my daughter to return to enjoying salad. Who knows how long it will take the Floridians to choke back the memory and eat leafy greens again.

Both incidents provide plenty of business lessons. Always inspect your produce before taking it to market. Keep an eye out for hitchhikers in the packaging. Have traceability and recall plans in place – you never know when you might need them.

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