A mum of two young children claims she nearly served them lunch with eggs from the most poisonous spider in the world, after she bought bananas which had them attached.
Stephanie Gauci, from Lee, was horrified to spot the highly dangerous eggs of the Brazilian wandering spider on her fruit, just before she gave it to her children to eat on October 25. She said: “The children had finished their sandwiches for lunch and I had already pulled a banana off when I looked at one of them and saw what looked like mould. “I had to do a double take. “I had seen stories in the papers about the Brazilian wandering spider so I quickly threw it on the counter in fright.
But I picked it up again, just to look at the eggs. I could see the embryos moving within them.” She sealed them straight away into a zip-lock sandwich bag and put them into a pot in the family garden, with a sheet placed over them.
She had bought the bananas at Lidl in Lee High Road the day before – October 24.
She called her local environmental health department in Greenwich, who told her to speak to their counterparts in Lewisham.
“It was the first time he had ever seen any Brazilian wandering spider eggs,” said Mrs Gauci.
“They have not tested them but environmental health in Lewisham visited my house and inspected the eggs.
He consulted the environmental health officer in Bexley who is in charge of Lidl all over the country.
“Both said that after seeing them and from pictures supplied by me it’s very likely they are Brazilian wandering spider eggs.
“But when I rang the Lidl in Lee High Road they only said I would need to contact pest control or environmental health.
“I was very upset about that. I was so horrified, angry and scared and totally unhappy with their customer service as their adviser told me Lidl could not assist me any further with this matter and that I would need to contact my local pest control or environmental services to get my house fumigated.
But environmental health (EH) could not do so as it is a private residence.
“The only option its environmental health officers suggested was to put the bag of eggs into the freezer to kill them – but I was not prepared to bring them back into my house.
“I made Lidl fully aware I have a two- and five-year-old at home. “My kids were petrified. They kept talking about the eggs all the time they were in the house. It was not nice for them to see their mum crying. I don’t think I could give them bananas again.
“Lidl failed to provide me with any customer service assistance and I was totally appalled by their service. All they could say when I rang them was ‘Sorry’.
“Eventually I had to get rid of the banana and eggs as the spider sack seemed to looked like they were becoming more transparent.
I was not sure if it was getting ready to hatch. “Whatever it was inside, it was getting more visible and moving around.” She tried the RSPCA, who said they could not handle spiders as they were not an injured animal – and advised her to ring a member of the Arachnological Society or local university who deals with spiders.
A pest control firm told her it would cost £180 to fumigate the house. She took the banana and eggs back to Lidl on October 28. A spokesman for Lidl said:
“We were very sorry to hear of this, as it is never our intention for a customer to be dissatisfied in any way.
“The matter was immediately escalated to our Quality Assurance department, who launched an investigation with our supplier and shared clear instructions with the customer on the necessary handling of the product, as advised by our primary authority.
“This includes double bagging and freezing, ensuring that any live eggs are humanely destroyed. Following this, the item can then be disposed of as normal.
“We have thorough procedures in place to ensure that the fresh fruit and vegetables available in our stores are of the highest possible quality for our customers. “This includes specific measures during transportation from country of origin.
We were therefore very disappointed that these expected high standards have not been met on this occasion and our Quality Assurance team will be back in touch with the customer to finalise the resolution, once the investigation has concluded.”
Quality assurance team member Anna Townsend also wrote to Stephanie to say: “I was extremely concerned to hear of this incident. I can confirm that I have been in contact with our supplier and they are currently conducting a thorough investigation into your complaint.
We will contact you with an update on the progress of this investigation. “I would like to thank you for your patience and I hope this correspondence assures you that your complaint is being taken seriously.”