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Woman says she found a black widow spider in carton of green grapes she brought home from Toronto grocery store

A Toronto woman got a frightening surprise after seeing what appears to be a black widow spider nestled in her container of green grapes she took home from the grocery store.

While she doesn’t normally add green grapes to her grocery list, Breanne Charter said she was hungry while shopping at a No Frills in Toronto’s west-end and wanted an easy snack to eat as soon as she got home on Sunday.

After buying the grapes, Charter said she took them home, and put them straight into her fridge, before returning a couple of hours later to eat them. As she took out her colander and started to remove the top layer of grapes from the container to wash, that’s when Charter noticed “this giant black thing” nestled inside.

“Obviously, like I’ve known that bugs can get into produce, so I kind of just shook the container to see if it was still alive and it started to move,” Charter told CTV News Toronto.

“I’m a huge arachnophobe, so I ran out of my kitchen and grabbed my fiancé to take a look, and he was like, ‘Oh, it’s just a spider.’”

But after inspecting the spider more closely, Charter said that’s when they noticed its unmistakable red underbelly. After comparing pictures from Google to the arachnid in her produce, Charter said she concluded it was a black widow.

In a video Charter took, the spider was about the size of one of the green grapes inside of the plastic carton, and could be seen dangling from one of the vines.

“So I told him to immediately close the lid … so that it couldn’t get out, because his body was way too big to get kind of through the holes (of the plastic container),” Charter said.

While it might be unsettling to see this infamous arachnid, particularly in groceries, Nature Conservancy Canada says the northern black widow spider can be found in southern and eastern Ontario.

Plus, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), they can be occasionally spotted in imported grapes.

“The presence of spiders does not damage or poison the grapes,” the agency said in a safety alert for consumers, adding while grapes are usually carefully examined before packaging, these arachnids can camouflage themselves amidst the grape vines. Officials say these spiders are not aggressive, but may bite in self-defence. The venom of a black widow is poisonous and could cause severe pain.

The CFIA urges anyone who spots these creepy crawlers in their produce to report it to the agency – though Charter told CTV News Toronto that it was closed when she found the spider around 9 p.m.

“I can’t sleep with this thing in our house, we have a small dog, (what happens if) it escapes and bites the dog?” Charter said.

So, she and her fiancé put the container into a plastic bag and ran over to the nearest No Frills to see if the store could handle it.

“We showed them the grapes and the spider, everyone was very freaked out,” Charter said. “They provided me a refund for the item and then triple-bagged it and notified their manager.”

A spokesperson for Loblaw, which is the parent company of No Frills, confirmed to CTV News Toronto that “this was handled appropriately by the store.” Through Instagram messages to Charter’s fiancé, reviewed by CTV News Toronto, No Frills apologized for what happened and added the incident was shared with its quality assurance team so it can be appropriately addressed by the supplier.

Charter said that this whole experience is not going to stop her from buying grapes again in the future.

“I find this whole thing quite hilarious.” 

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