Two people in Florida who were eating a package of store-bought salad found a dead bat in their food.
The gross discovery prompted fresh salad producer and distributor Fresh Express, which made the salad, to issue a recall of limited cases of Organic Marketside Spring Mix on Saturday out of abundance of caution.
Dead And Live Animals In People's Food
Although the idea of finding a decomposed body of a bat in your food is disgusting, there have been several instances in the past when bodies of dead and live animals were found in people's food.
In 2010, for instance, a family in Michigan claimed to have discovered a frog inside a pack of frozen vegetables. Two women, one in Hampshire and another in Pennsylvania, also claimed to have discovered a live black widow spider in a bag of grapes.
Why Consumers Find Animals In Their Food
Animals are not supposed to be included in the food packages that consumers buy and intend to eat but how do these creatures end up in food items?
Food safety specialist Ben Chapman, from the North Carolina State University, said that this likely has something to do with the way big companies harvest their produce. He explained that large companies opt to use mechanical harvesters over handpicking individual plants. The machines are driven through the fields where these scoop up the produce in their paths.
Chapman said it is possible that small animals get picked by the mechanical harvester and make it through the quality control steps of the company, which typically involve washing, sorting, and drying the produce on large conveyor belts after harvest.
Chapman said he is not surprised to hear cases of small animals that made it through the processes albeit he said that these incidents rarely occur.
"It's possible that the mechanical harvesting could pick something like this up," Chapman said.
In a 2015 case of a woman who found a dead frog in a package of organic spinach, Taylor Farms, which packaged the salad, blamed the incident on a malfunctioning laser sorter.
"On the day this product was processed, this particular line had one laser that was not properly functioning," Taylor Farms' food safety and quality assurance director Kari Valdes explained. "It is possible that while the product passed the laser the frog was covered behind a piece of spinach not allowing sight of the laser to the frog."
In the case of the dead bat, Fresh Express said that it employs strict controls during growing and harvesting and that it thoroughly washes, filters, and visually inspects products to eliminate unnecessary items.
"A range of stringent controls are in place during growing and harvesting to mitigate against field material from entering the raw product system. In manufacturing, additional controls including thorough washing and filtration systems as well as visual inspections that are designed to eliminate unwanted debris," Fresh Express said.
Chapman, however, said that companies that experience incidents like these should consider revisiting the quality control process to find out what went wrong and how these events can be prevented in the future.