Your Bagged Salad Might Contain An Unsettling Surprise

We try to avoid food poisoning as much as possible, whether that means never eating raw meats or watching the CDC's warnings like a hawk. But when it comes to unwanted additions to our pre-packaged greens there are some things you just can't avoid. We're talking frogs, reptiles, and other creepy-crawlies that, according to a recent study in Science of the Total Environment, are popping up more often in our produce (via Science Direct). 

The study reviewed incidents in the media where people reported finding a critter of some sort in their pre-packaged produce in an attempt to understand whether or not the problem is increasing, and though data suggests that it is, the reason why isn't so plain. Animals are found nearly three times more often in conventionally grown produce compared to organic, which the researchers theorize could be because demand for conventionally grown pre-packaged produce has gone up so much that their quality control is overwhelmed. As the process of harvesting and packaging gets more mechanized, the more critters can slip through. "It's really hard to screen for animals in the context of industrial-scale harvest speed and volume," one of the researchers told Vice. That's bad news for all you spinach fans, as more than 50 percent of incidents recorded were amphibians (some alive) who prefer a bag of leafy greens as their temporary home.

Should you be worried that you're going to start seeing a frog in every bag of salad you buy? Not necessarily. 40 incidents  have been recorded since 2003, with 38 of those happening between 2008 and 2018. But as Today points out, that's an average of just 2.66 critters found in bagged greens per year. While the odds seem to be in your favor, wild animals can potentially spread disease to humans, so if you do find a surprise in your bagged salad, you definitely shouldn't eat it. 

What you also should not do is release any live found animals into the wild. One woman who found a frog in her bagged lettuce ended up making it a terrarium to live in and kept it as a pet, a more environmentally sound decision than setting it free in the garden, according to one of the researchers. "Releasing wild animals is how invasive species start, and could introduce disease into local frog populations," he said. "Just don't do it."

Instead of seeing the increase of frogs found in bagged produce as a negative, think of it as a positive — maybe your new little lettuce pet will become your best friend.