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.

Prepared Salads Sold at Target, Walmart, and Aldi Have Been Recalled Over E. Coli Concerns

samael334/iStock via Getty Images
samael334/iStock via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday that Missa Bay, LLC is recalling more than 75,000 pounds of pre-packaged salads after one tested positive for E. coli. News Channel 9 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, reports that the products were made between October 14 and October 16, and were sold at Target, Aldi, Walmart, and other stores.

According to the USDA’s statement, the Maryland Department of Health found traces of E. coli O157:H7 on the lettuce in a Ready Pac Bistro Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics Caesar Salad, and all products with lettuce from the same lot are included in the recall. You can see the full list of salads here.

Missa Bay, LLC is based in Swedesboro, New Jersey, and they ship to these states: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

If you have any salad bowls in your refrigerator at the moment, toss any with the establishment number “EST. 18502B” and “Use by” dates from October 29 through November 1. It’s a good opportunity to sweep the corners of your fridge for any other expired products, so you can make room for next week’s Thanksgiving leftovers.

Wondering how exactly how food contamination is discovered, tested, and dealt with? Find out the anatomy of a food recall here.

[h/t News Channel 9]

Food for Fines: Many Communities Let Residents Pay Parking Tickets With Canned Food Donations

Warren_Price/iStock via Getty Images
Warren_Price/iStock via Getty Images

Depending on where you live, paying off your parking tickets could be a chance to give back to the underserved members of your community this holiday season. Towns, cities, and universities across the country are embracing food for fines programs: initiatives that allow residents to settle their parking debts by donating non-perishable food items.

Accepting canned goods in lieu of cash parking ticket payments isn't a new practice. Lexington, Kentucky has been running holiday food for fines drives since 2013. Even in larger cities, like Las Vegas, such programs have proven successful. Recently in Muncie, Indiana, the local police department used it as an opportunity to collect pet supplies instead of pantry staples.

The model has become more popular in recent years, and this holiday season, it will be easier than ever to find a food for fines program near you. In Bay Village, Ohio, a city located about 15 miles west of Cleveland, officials are looking for non-perishables to provide to the local Bay Food Ministry. Individual items are worth $5 in owed parking fines, with the town waiving up to $25 per person.

Universities are also hopping on board the trend. At the University of Colorado Boulder, students can donate five items to have their parking tickets forgiven. Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania has already collected more than 100 cans from students through its own food for fines program.

Many of the initiatives will run through this Friday and conclude ahead of Thanksgiving week, so if you have a parking ticket you need to pay off, contact your local parking services office soon to see if it's participating.

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