Safety Measures when Finding Spiders in Fresh Produce

Fresh produce may have insects, scorpions, snakes, spiders or other living things in them that may be injurious to consumers but the frequency of finding them is rare. The most common living thing that might be injurious to human health and found in fresh produce is the black widow spider.

Any spiders should be treated with caution. The best control is to get rid of the spider without touching it or its web. Consumers are advised to wash their grapes thoroughly by placing them under running warm water. This practice will clean the product of any extraneous matter and likely immobilize any live spiders by washing them off into the sink. If a spider falls into the sink it is recommended that the spider be killed rather than captured. If giving grapes to a toddler or young child it is recommended that they be removed from the bunch.

Incidents of Black Widow Spiders

Black widow spiders are distinctive due to their shiny, round body, brown or black color and two reddish or yellowish triangles on the abdomen. The legs are long and slender. The black widow spider will bite in self-defence, if physically disturbed. The spider's venom is poisonous and should be treated properly and promptly. Children and adults who are not in good physical health should take particular care. They should not interact with these spiders and avoid being bitten.

There is an increased frequency of finding black widow spiders in imported table grapes, especially during the fall harvesting season for table grapes imported from California. Spiders have always been in and around grape vineyards. They eat insect pests that are found on grapes. The presence of spiders does not damage or poison the grapes. When grapes are harvested, every bunch is carefully examined and placed into a package. Some spiders may camouflage with the grape vines and escape the attention of the farm worker. Grapes are also chilled prior to being transported. The chilling causes spiders to become dormant and immobile, making their way to retailers and consumers' homes.

Common name: Black Widow Spider.

Scientific name: Latrodectus mactans.

Characteristics: Black shiny body, about 6 mm long with a red hourglass shaped mark on the underside of the abdomen.

Facts: Most spiders are not aggressive unless disturbed. All species are venomous.

Habitat: Most warm regions of eastern and central U.S., North American deserts and southern Canada.

Food: Prey on other insects.

black widow spider