Fresh Express CEO Steve Taylor looks over a salad packaging machine at the Fresh Express packaging plant in Salinas, California, on Monday, Jan. 31, 1999. Fresh Express is a major producer of pre-packaged salads.
As the Miami Herald would observe, Saturday’s notice recalling an untold quantity of organic salad from Walmart stores across the southeastern United States “tiptoes around the batness” of the situation.
The very, very disgusting batness of it all.
Fresh Express’ recall notice says only that, despite “a range of stringent controls … in place during growing and harvesting,” some “extraneous animal matter” found its way into a single five-ounce container of Organic Marketside Spring Mix, somewhere on the continent.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the other hand, will tell you possibly more than you wanted to know.
“Two people in Florida reported eating some of the salad before the bat was found,” reads the agency’s notice of an investigation of the incident.
The dead bat was turned over to the federal government.
“The deteriorated condition of the bat did not allow for CDC to definitively rule out whether this bat had rabies.”
That sounds bad, though the CDC offers reassurance that the chance of a live rabies virus making its way into the salad is very small.
And the two people who ate the salad appear healthy.
“Immediately upon notification of the event, Fresh Express food safety and rapid response teams worked in close coordination with Walmart and regulatory authorities to launch an intensive investigation,” a spokesperson for the company, which is owned by Chiquita of bananas fame, wrote in a statement to The Washington Post.
“Based on all available evidence, we are confident this is an isolated incident.”
Fresh Express, like many food makers in the age of mass distribution, has issued a handful of recalls before. But those contamination scares – salmonella, almond allergens, errant packages of Parmesan cheese – did not resemble whatever horror greeted the salad eaters in Florida.
Not that a little dead bat is the most dangerous thing you can find in a meal. A minimal chance of rabies in two people who seem fine pales in comparison to a batch of Listeria-tainted Blue Bell ice cream that sickened people in four states.
And a cucumber contamination in 2015 killed two people and sickened hundreds.
A Walmart spokesperson didn’t say in which store the bat was found, but said that as soon as the company learned of the incident, it told all stores selling salad from that batch to pull it off the shelves.
There are no signs that the incident will lead to anything like the public relations crisis that Chipotle faced in 2015, when 80 college students fell ill after visiting a single restaurant.
Or Taco Bell’s E. coli-based financial catastrophe a decade ago.
Or Jack in the Box before that.
A decomposed bat is not even necessarily the grossest extraneous matter you can find in your dinner.
NPR has an entire compendium of reports about fingers found in fast food.