Fresh fruit in winter has become the norm in supermarkets around the country. A significant amount of buyers seeks out organic produce for the lack of potentially noxious spray residues.
In the quest to combat insects that feast on their vines, growers of organic grapes nurture the black widow spider variety, which will prey on the vineyard pests in the sense of a biological pest control. Despite checks and handling measures to rid the grape bunches of spiders, more consumers have been spotting black widows on imported grapes. A Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesman reported, that the numbers have been going up. The good news, however, is that bites have been infrequent, and more importantly, fatalities are extremely rare. Centers of the American Association of Poison Control recorded 13,000 bites in 1997 of which less than 1 % were fatal.
Nevertheless, the hazard is real, and people who are most at risk of suffering a fatal bite are children. Also the older patients who have a heart condition are at a high risk of severe complications. According to a recent study authored by Dr. A. Stibich, a dermatologist from the Newark-based University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, key signs of the toxin from a black widow bite are excessive saliva flow, tear flow, sweating, muscle tremors, a rapid heart beat and shock.
Medical treatment to deal with the symptoms and the pain is necessary. Most symptoms subside within two or three days.
For the consumer the most important message is caution. Black widows don’t only occupy fruit from the tropics, check out your organic grapes and look before you touch!
Reference: The Medical Post, December 14,2004, page5
Last edited December 7, 2012