How Often Do People Find Wild Animals In Their Salads? More Often Than You Want to Know

Carolyn Smith/iStock via Getty Images
Carolyn Smith/iStock via Getty Images

Have you ever found a frog in your prepackaged salad? If you answered "yes," you’re (unfortunately) not alone. It's a problem that even Queen Elizabeth II has had to contend with (though in her case, it was a slug).

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and their colleagues recently published a study in the journal Science of the Total Environment on how many wild-animals-in-salads cases have been documented in the media since 2003, which was when a customer discovered the head of a lizard in a prepared salad of romaine lettuce. In that time, as The Takeout reports, the study concluded that there have been 40 documented cases of animals finding their way into someone's bag or plate of greens, with 95 percent of those incidents having occurred since 2008.

An average of 3.8 incidents have been reported each year since 2008, with 2013 posting a record five cases. The study marks the first review of customer-found wild animals in the rapidly growing prepackaged produce industry.

So just what kind of animals are people finding in their would-be lunches? Frogs, lizards, snakes, mice, bats, and birds—both alive and not alive—have all been found in prepackaged salad bags or store-bought prepared salads. Incidents include a woman in D.C. who found a live frog in a salad from a restaurant chain; a woman who found alive frog in a spring mix salad bag she bought from Target (she ended up keeping the little guy as a pet); and a Florida woman who, you guessed it, found a live frog in a bag of salad she purchased at Walmart. (Between all the documented cases, nine frogs total were found alive.)

Though 40 incidents may sound like a small amount, the study suggests that the actual number of cases is higher than that, but that many of the incidents have not been reported or never made national headlines. Amphibians were by far the most common class of animal found, making up 52.5 percent of the discovered animals. Birds, meanwhile, made up approximately 7.5 percent of the cases.

Finding a living, breathing animal in your bag of greens gives new meaning to the phrase organic produce, but 72.5 percent of the time the animals had made homes in conventionally grown veggies. Twenty different states have reported these instances, but Florida and Texas have had the most, with five apiece.

Besides “how many animals have been found in salads?,” a bigger and more important is: “How did those animals get into those salads in the first place?” The study doesn’t have a definitive answer, but suggests that “mechanically harvesting crops that were traditionally hand-picked” might allow some critters to get through. The issue, according to the study, can either be seen as “a food-safety crisis or a complaint against food quality.” But because these animals can spread diseases, the paper asserts that vigilance by the food industry could "reduce the potential health risk to their consumers and negative economic consequences to themselves."

Researching wild vertebrates in prepackaged veggies is new terrain for sciences, and as the study itself says, it represents "an unacknowledged issue in the current system of centralized produce production in the United States, and perhaps for developed countries in general." So if you happen to find a surprise visitor the next time you open a bag of salad, please report it, for science's sake ... and then maybe keep it as a pet.

Learn Python From Home for Just $50

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com

It's difficult to think of a hobby or job that doesn’t involve some element of coding in its execution. Are you an Instagram enthusiast? Coding and algorithms are what bring your friends' posts to your feed. Can’t get enough Mental Floss? Coding brings the entire site to life on your desktop and mobile screens. Even sorting through playlists on Spotify uses coding. If you're tired of playing catch-up with all the latest coding techniques and principles, the 2020 Python Programming Certification Bundle is on sale for $49.99 to teach you to code, challenge your brain, and boost your resume to get your dream job.

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The Long, Fascinating History of Chocolate

Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain

Walk into just about any grocery or convenience store today and you're sure to find row upon row of chocolate in every imaginable form. While we have come to associate this sweet treat with companies like Hershey, chocolate has been a delicacy for centuries.

All chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which is native to the Americas, but is now grown around the world. Inside the tree’s fruits, or pods, you’ll find the cacao beans, which—once roasted and fermented—give chocolate its signature rich and complex flavor. While we don't know who first decided to turn cacao beans into chocolate, we certainly owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

In this episode of Food History, we're digging into the history of chocolate—from its origins to the chocolate-fueled feud between J.S. Fry & Sons and Cadbury and much, much more. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!