|Black widow spider. Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images.
Toronto resident Brett James was reaching into his refrigerator to grab his wife a snack when he found a black widow spider lurking under the bag of grapes he'd purchased at the local Whole Foods Market, the Toronto Star reports. He thinks the poisonous spider came in with the grapes.
"When I lifted the bag, the spider was underneath, just sitting on top of another bag in the refrigerator," James tells Slashfood. "I wasn't sure exactly what it was, and I had heard stories before, so something was in the back of my head that it could be serious."
He lifted the spider out of the fridge on a paper towel and put it in a plastic container. After poking around on the Internet, he said he identified it as a black widow, a spider whose venom can cause muscle cramps, tremor and chest pain.
An entomologist later identified it as one that had likely came from California in the grapes, James says.
"I wasn't shocked initially, but then when I realized what it was, there was a little bit of thankfulness that nobody had been bitten," he says. "I'm glad it was me that found it, because it might have been a little more traumatic if it had been anybody else."
Whole Foods tells Slashfood that while it's rare to find pests -- including poisonous spiders -- in its produce, it does happen. However, in the last 651,000 boxes of grapes that the company has distributed to its stores, spokeswoman Kate Kalotz says only three spiders were found.
"With any product that comes from the field, there is potential that it will have an attraction for any sort of insect," she says.
Tom Prentice, staff research associate at UC Riverside's Department of Entomology, tells Slashfood that finding a black widow in packaged food is not something consumers need to worry about.
"Anything is possible, but we get very few reports of widow spiders coming from food products or building webs in food products. They're not a stable environment for one thing. They ripen. They fall," Prentice says. "So it's not the kind of place that a widow would use for building a web."
"It's uncommon for them to be in food like that," he says. "People just freak when it comes to spiders, and they've got a very undeserved reputation."
James hopes to donate the spider to a zoo.
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