(Dec. 2) Black widow spiders are not usually part of grape shipments, but since early October, three British shoppers have found the venomous spider in table grapes that were shipped to England from California and sold at the Tesco supermarket chain.
The report comes from the BBC, which said Tesco had no immediate answer for why the spiders were in the grapes.
California grape growers are wrapping up the table grape season and, for that reason, do not expect a major loss in export sales because of the spiders found in England. But if the spiders had been found at the start of the season, sales could have been seriously disrupted, said Scott Boyajian, president of Sunview Marketing International, Delano, Calif.
Boyajian said spiders are a part of the natural environment in grape vineyards and with recent reductions in use of pesticides, spiders and bugs will occasionally ride along with grape bunches to foreign destinations.
The California Table Grape commission reports that California growers ship 90 million 19-pound cartons to domestic and export customers each year, and it is rare that spiders or insects are found in grape bunches. California growers ship slightly more than 1.4 million 19-pound cartons to Great Britain each year, the commission reports.
It is the seventh-largest export market for California growers.
Boyajian said Great Britain is an important customer for his company. He said Sunview Marketing International ships to a buyer in England and some of the product goes to Tesco.
Growers said that because spiders are found in all vineyards, it is impossible to tie any one company to the spiders found in England.
“Spiders eat insects and are part of our natural ecology,” said Jim Pandol, vice president of marketing for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano. Pandol Bros. does not ship to England, but he said spiders have been found with shipments a few times in the past.
It resulted in a fact sheet put out by the California Table Grape Commission explaining that the table grape industry has responded to consumer concerns about chemicals and as pesticide use continues to decline, retailers and consumers will find an insects from time to time in grape bunches.