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Food

Illinois study analyzes cases of wildlife in food

Like many people, I try to make healthy choices at mealtimes. Also like many people, I wouldn't want to find critters of any kind sharing this plate of food.
Like many people, I try to make healthy choices at mealtimes. Also like many people, I wouldn't want to find critters of any kind sharing this plate of food.

Many people today like their food fresh, natural and organic.

But they may draw the line at sharing that meal with other "organic creatures."

A friend called up one night rather hysterical. This friend likes to eat healthy and picked up a to-go salad on the way home from work.

Halfway through the salad, the friend discovered a live worm was also sharing that salad.

This obviously goes beyond the old joke, "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup!"

Uncommon?

A news release from the University of Illinois recalled the 2017 Florida story where a dead bat was discovered in a package of salad greens.

Turns out dozens of cases over the past 15 years show consumers have found animals, "live, dead or severed," in fresh produce, the release also said.

A University of Illinois study now catalogues and analyzes these incidents "as part of a larger effort towards greater food safety and quality improvements in the fresh produce industry."

Daniel Hughes, postdoctoral researcher in the department of animal sciences at U of I and lead author on the study, searched online for more cases, found them, and then learned no publicly accessible data about how wildlife gets into food even exists.

“I started looking out of curiosity, saving links to articles of people finding frogs in their salads. Within a couple months, I had this long list," Hughes said in the release. "I realized there’s something more going on here that we’ve been led to believe. Every article I clicked on claimed it was super rare, but when you’re looking at 25 of those incidents, it doesn’t sound that rare to me."

Eventually Hughes had 40 news stories 40 news stories from the United States between 2003 and 2018 where frogs, lizards, snakes, mice, birds and the bat, were found in salad greens, green beans, or mixed vegetables, the release said.

Over 50% of the 40 incidents involved frogs and 10 (nine frogs and a lizard) were found alive, the news release said.

Hughes said media reports were inconclusive on whether or not the animals' presence "constitutes a true food safety crisis, or simply a food quality issue," especially since none of those incidents were linked to outbreaks of foodborne illness and only the bat led to a recall.

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