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WHAT A FRIGHT!; Family finds black widow in grapes.

Byline: JENNIFER WILDMAN

A MERSEYSIDE family discovered a deadly visitor in their shopping - a black widow spider.

The spider, which can kill with one bite, had arrived in a consignment of grapes from California.

It was dead by the time Ron Bolzern unpacked the shopping at his Southport home, but he didn't know that - so he put it in a plastic bag and then into a bottle containing vodka just to make sure.

He said: ``We didn't want to take any chances. It looked dead but we weren't sure if it was in some form of hibernation or had been frozen during refrigeration.''

Ron, who has two daughters, Lindy and Jaime, and lives in Oxford Road, Birkdale, found the black widow among Californian grapes he had bought from the Tesco superstore at Kew, Southport.

He sent pictures of the creature to experts at Liverpool museum, who confirmed the spider is a black widow.

This is the second reported case of the deadly species being found in bunches of grapes from Tesco within two months.

Mr Bolzern, who used to live in California, said: ``We have been in contact with a lady from Dorset who found a live black widow at the start of October.''

The black widow has distinctive red hourglass shaped markings on its abdomen. It is no bigger than a 5p piece, but its venomous bite can be fatal.

Tesco spokesman Greg Sage said: ``Cases like this are very rare. Safety is our top priority at Tesco and we have a rigorous checking process in countries which farm our produce.

``We apologise to the gentleman concerned for any distress this has caused and will be notifying our technical manager. He will speak to suppliers to reinforce the procedures we expect all handlers and checkers to follow.''

Terry Woods, food section manager at Sefton Trading Standards, said: ``We have started the routine process of investigating the supply chain to find out where the problem's source may be.

``Tesco is co-operating fully with this, but we expect it will be two or three weeks before we are any further on.''

CAPTION(S):

NAIL BITING: Lindy and Jaime Bolzern with the black widow spider found in the family shopping
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 20, 2002
Words:368
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