uh, waiter...
March 6, 2009 7:48 PM   Subscribe

There's a live moth living in a package of unopened, spinach. Should I cause a stink with the packing company?

I purchased Certified Organic Triple Washed baby spinach and just as I was about to open the sealed package, discovered that there is a live moth crawling around. It can't get out, because the package is sealed, and I guess it has been living off the spinach all this time

The Spinach was packaged in California, and I live in the cold, white North, so it can't be from around these parts this time of year.

Heck, stuff happens, but what really upsets me is that the packaging states that it is triple washed. How the heck did someone miss the moth?

Anyway, I wrote to the company when it happened and still have received no answer three days later. So the bad customer service is making me mad too. Is it worth making a stink about it? If so, who do I stink to?

I'm not looking to make a million dollars suing for emotional trauma (although we were looking forward to a spinach salad that evening), but goddamn, a live moth living and pooping in one's food is pretty darn gross. All I really want is an apology and a commitment to improving their washing processes.
posted by bitteroldman to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They don't wash and seal it in the bag directly after it. They probably run the spinach through a giant salad spinner to wring out extra moisture. Then bag it. It probably made it's way into the bag during the packaging process.

Surprised it hasn't run out of oxygen..
posted by royalsong at 7:53 PM on March 6, 2009

I doubt you'll get a satisfactory response. My aunt once found a live cockroach in her can of Coke. To this day, she pours anything she cannot see through into a glass and checks it before drinking. Complained, no one even bothered to respond. Like you, she didn't want to sue or anything, just wanted to let them know.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:58 PM on March 6, 2009

I've seen spinach washed industrially at the Food Terminal in Toronto and the process looked at least as thorough as what I'd do at home. It's mostly trying to remove sand without bruising the leaves. It was basically a few very large tanks and conveyors.

All the moth pupae I've ever seen were in cocoons, firmly attached to things by spun threads, so I can imagine that one going through the washing process is quite possible. Then it could have got into a warm store, thought, "Hey! It's spring!" and emerged.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:01 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

No machine or person can catch everything nature can throw at it. Growing stuff = dirt/insects. It happens sometimes. Let it go.
posted by txvtchick at 8:05 PM on March 6, 2009 [10 favorites]

Send pics in to consumerist.com! Your story will def be heard then.
posted by citystalk at 8:12 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just think about all the weird stuff you've eaten without even knowing it. If that moth had been in some pop-tarts, you would have not even known it.

Eating is risky, accept the risk and buy some more spinach.
posted by 517 at 8:14 PM on March 6, 2009

Well a weird thing happened this week to a customer at the Aldi grocery store. She opened a pack of potato chips and found a cell phone. Not a new phone but a very used phone. The store offered her a new pack of chips. She declined. The store is going to report it to the supplier. But still, odd things happen.
posted by JayRwv at 8:23 PM on March 6, 2009

All I really want is an apology and a commitment to improving their washing processes.


What about just taking it back to the grocery store for a refund?
posted by Adam_S at 8:24 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

As you already realize, the moth is probably a fluke accident. The poor response by customer service is worth following up on though - service never improves if they can get away with not addressing real issues.

I've had some crazy crap in my food too - fingertip in my deli meat (yeah, the guy cut it off and served it to me anyway) and a recently a clothespin in my ramen. Guess that's a hint I should eat less ramen...
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:27 PM on March 6, 2009

Adult moths (as in, past cocoon stage) don't eat spinach. A lot of moths don't even eat as adults.

And no washing process will eliminate every instance of insect contamination.

Moths aren't filthy creatures. Unless you're allergic to moth scales (and you probably aren't, though I am a little bit allergic, through occupational exposure), you could just wash and eat the spinach. I promise you that you have eaten faaaar grosser things, whether you knew it, or not.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:50 PM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

At least the face that the moth was still alive suggests that the spinach was actually organic. I'd take it as a good sign.

I remember reading somewhere that flour manufacturers have a regulated maximum number of insect parts that can be in each ton of flour. That maximum is way above zero. As Coatlicue says on preview, this is nothing to worry about.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:54 PM on March 6, 2009


Also, maybe the moth came with the packaging. Which probably wasn't triple washed.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2009

I'm sure it's good luck... or something.

I would definitely follow up on the poor customer service, I agree with blaneyp on that one. In your situation that is also what would be 'bugging' me the most.
posted by Weaslegirl at 8:58 PM on March 6, 2009

Nthing everyone that this is not such a big deal, it happens sometimes, but the customer service seeming indifference is a bit disturbing, and perhaps worth pursuing a bit more, politely but pointedly.

If it makes you feel any better, I once found a large *dead* moth amongst my organic salad greens. The greens were from a bulk bin and I had washed them, but the moth had really good camouflage. So, the way I discovered it was by having it wind up in my mouth! Gag. (I can still "feel" the texture of the moth wings on my tongue, even though that was over 2 years ago.)
posted by gudrun at 9:19 PM on March 6, 2009

Well, first things first. Take a picture if you want proof and let the poor thing go. It doesn't sound like you care whether or not the company makes a big deal out of it, and I don't see how getting a refund would require that you have the actual bug in the bag. Let him out, wish him well, put a little more life back into the world.
posted by big open mouth at 9:58 PM on March 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

Just like bonobothegreat seems to be thinking, I'd bet the moth was either still a caterpillar or in pupal form when they washed and packed the spinach. So it was probably way easier for the people who check this stuff at the packing facility to miss. In the time it took to reach you, the moth became a full-grown moth.

I'm not saying this shouldn't have been caught, I'm just thinking it may have been a little harder to catch than you might think. So, yeah, complain -- but I would say that the customer service failure is a much greater offense than the moth itself.
posted by Fuzzy Dunlop at 10:43 PM on March 6, 2009

This is why I always wash my vegetables and salad greens before cooking or serving. I don't care what any labelling about washing or pesticide free says.
posted by wingless_angel at 11:09 PM on March 6, 2009

Let it go and don't be such a bitter old man.
posted by sourwookie at 12:18 AM on March 7, 2009

Anyway, I wrote to the company when it happened and still have received no answer three days later.

Three days? Much too soon to expect a substantive response, even if you mean "e-mailed" or "filled in customer response web form". Three weeks is probably typical, six weeks at the outside.

The response you will typically get is a certain number of coupons for the same or other products from the company.

That said, I would take it right back to the store where you got it. The manager will probably blanch and give you store credit at least.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 AM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bugs and their crap in your food is the price you pay to eat organic.
posted by whoda at 6:45 AM on March 7, 2009

Write a letter to the company and they might send a coupon for a free package. I once found gnats in an unopened pasta box and wrote the company. They sent coupons.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 6:57 AM on March 7, 2009

A couple of months ago I found a moth in my salad and took the salad back to the store. They gave me a full refund with no hassle. That's what I would do in this case. You can take a picture of the moth for your records (in case the company ever follows up) if you want. But the maximum satisfaction you're looking at here is pretty much a new moth-free bag of spinach or the equivalent money back.
posted by kate blank at 7:01 AM on March 7, 2009

When I first considered the question, I was all excited to try to figure out how a moth could get inside the packaging.

The more I think about it, it gets me going on the fact that people have come to treat food as a product of manufacturing. A head of spinach is not like a book of matches or a child's plastic toy.

You're buying organic so that no chemicals are used to kill the bugs that damage crops... yet you expect it to be entirely free of any bugs? How is this whole move away from industrial farming going to happen if we remain fixated on the idea that all our produce has to be cosmetically perfect? (and I would class a live moth as a cosmetic defect -not like a piece of binding twine or a big smear of shit).

Accept the fact that you have to personally wash things before putting them in your mouth. Stop bugging the company..don't be a kook.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'd wash it and eat it without a second thought. But first you should totally take macro pictures of your little moth bio-dome and put 'em on Flickr.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:19 AM on March 7, 2009

Hey also, why do you consider 3 days without a response to be poor customer service? Seems that people have an expectation that everything should happen instantly, and that's not always realistic.

Did you send them an email? Snail mail?

Try calling them.

Also, just take the package back to the store for an exchange.

I realize that this is a mildly disturbing event, but it's not like it's something important.
posted by reddot at 8:09 AM on March 7, 2009

At least it's not a frog. The fact that snopes has left those cases marked "undetermined" demonstrates that it's not all that shocking or unrealistic to find creatures in your salad every once in a while. Take pictures, return the salad for a refund, and feel blessed that you had an unusual and exciting experience break into your mundane dinner routine.
posted by vytae at 9:14 AM on March 7, 2009

Yeah, wash it and eat it. Bugs (and dirt and pesticides and whatever) get on stuff. This is why you wash it. And try not to think too much about how many bugs and bug poops that you've already eaten. You have. And you're still alive! The spinach company may respond, they may not respond, whatever. You let them know, that's all you can really do. And wash your own stuff, even if it's triple washed. I agree with whoever said that the moth is alive is a good sign - that spinach really is organic!

I found a dead fly in a bag of chips once. I was kind of icked out and didn't eat it (you can't really wash chips). I did write a letter (snail mail) to the potato chip company, but it wasn't "omg I found a gross bug you guys really have to get your act together!" Instead, I made up a story about how a little fly wandered into the potato chip factory, drawn by the delicious smells. He made his way over to the jalapeno vat since he lived in the spicy side of life, and decided to take a vacation in the bag. Little did he know that he would get stuck in the bag, and become a jalapeno junkie. But at least for the end of his days, he had delicious treats all around. I closed with something like, "I'm just letting you guys know so that no other curious young flies meet such a tragic end!" I put the letter in the mail and forgot about it, thinking someone in customer service might think it was silly. A couple months later, I got an envelope jammed with like, 20 coupons for free chips. Sometimes it helps to be light-hearted about things.
posted by AlisonM at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

Pesticide free salad contains pest, fancy that. Seconding M.C. Lo-Carb! on this one.
posted by furtive at 9:19 AM on March 7, 2009

Pesticides or pests. Pick one.
posted by dinger at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2009

Are Bugs A Part of Your Diet?
Product 	Action Level
Apple butter 	5 insects per 100g
Berries 	4 larvae per 500g OR 10 whole insects per 500g
Ground paprika 	75 insect fragments per 25g
Chocolate 	80 microscopic insect fragments per 100g
Canned sweet corn 	2 3mm-length larvae, cast skins or fragments
Cornmeal 	1 insect per 50g
Canned mushrooms 	20 maggots per 100g
Peanut butter 	60 fragments per 100g (136 per lb)
Tomato paste, pizza, and other sauces 	30 eggs per 100g OR 2 maggots per 100g
Wheat flour 	75 insect fragments per 50g

Source: The Food Defect Action Levels:
 Current Levels for Natural or Unavoidable Defects for Human Use that 
Present No Health Hazard. Department of Health &
 Human Services 1989.

posted by Rumple at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would not complain. They may charge you more for the spinach since it is now enriched with protein!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 10:56 AM on March 7, 2009

Let him out, wish him well, put a little more life back into the world.

Yeah...don't do this. Invasive species are bad news. (Ever seen Arachnophobia?)

Just take the spinach back to the store and get a refund.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:55 PM on March 7, 2009

Best answer: This has happened to me too! Moth, packaged spinach, organic, triple washed. Probably the same brand. I didn't sweat it. I've twice found caterpillars in kale and once a funny green jumping bug in arugula. Our solution: avoid the packaged stuff and buy loose produce from grocery store and farmers' market as much as possible. It's not necessarily bug-free (although we haven't found any so far) but we don't have the same expectations of cleanliness to be upset by.
posted by wobh at 7:51 PM on March 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all for your comments!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2009

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