Recently, a 63-year-old man purchased a bag of broccoli and found something inside that left him horrified.
According to TVBS, Neville Linton, of Birmingham, UK, went to an Aldi supermarket to restock his fridge and bought a bag of broccoli. 3 days later, when he removed the plastic packaging on the kitchen counter, he discovered a snake tucked up in one of the stems of the vegetable. After careful inspection, Neville Linton realized it was still alive!
Horrified, Mr. Linton said: “It was pretty frightening. I’m not good with snakes. It’s lucky I didn’t just leave the broccoli out in the kitchen, or it would have been loose in the house.”
A Sneaky Snake Rattles Grocery Shopper
Mr. Linton works in industrial cleaning and he is scared of snakes. Fortunately, his sister, Ann-Marie Tenkanemin, 57, stepped in to help. The two put the broccoli onto a tub and headed for the Aldi branch where Mr. Linton bought the bag of vegetables. The manager of the store was frightened by what he saw.
“I thought she (sister) was joking at first, but I backed off when I saw it start moving. The guy in the shop was pretty frightened too.”, Mr. Linton said.
Later, Mr. Linton and his 41-year-old son, Donovan brought the creature to Dudley Zoo for identification and they discovered it was a young ladder snake.
According to the zoo staff, although the snake was not venomous, it can give a nasty nip to humans.
Although he had been offered some compensation, Linton believes the situation should warrant more since the snake was a risk to the vulnerable relatives that lived with him, including his disabled son and his mother-in-law.
In fear for them, he said: “That would have been a huge risk for us because we have two vulnerable people living here. It’s just not good enough. The implications for us, if it had got out in the house, are huge. Plus, I’m phobic of snakes, so there’s the emotional impact of that too.”
The Aldi branch manager admits that they have not received similar complaints from other customers. However, they will establish a protocol for SOP prevention so as not to encounter similar problems in the future, and more customers will feel at ease patronizing their store again.
“Our supplier has never had a complaint of this nature and has robust processes in place to prevent such issues from occurring. We are investigating this isolated incident and have apologized to Mr. Linton that our usual high standards were not met.”, an Aldi spokesperson said.
What Kind of Snake Was It?
According to Linton’s son, Donovan, 41, a specialist from the Dudley Zoo said the creature was a young ladder snake. Although they look scary and can deliver a nasty bite, they are not venomous. They are commonly found around Europe, including Spain, Portugal, and parts of Italy and France. They like temperate habitats with a lot of low shade such as hedges, forests, vineyards, rodent burrows, hollow trees, orchards, and boulders. Ladder snakes tend to be solitary, aggressive, and defensive in nature. They ward off attackers by snapping their sharp fangs and releasing a foul odor. Despite being carnivores, they don’t go after humans. Instead, they feed on rodents like mice and rabbits, birds, spiders, lizards, and insects. The broccoli-invading reptile now resides at the Dudley Zoo.
However, herpetologist Dr. Steven J. R. Allain identifies it as a viperine water snake, which is fortunately less dangerous. “Having reviewed the [actual] photo of the snake in the broccoli, I am not sure the zoo identified the species correctly,” Allain said. “To my expert eyes, the snake is in fact a viperine water snake (Natrix maura), which is a harmless fish-eating species found throughout southwestern Europe and northern Africa.”
He theorizes how it could have slithered its way into a broccoli. “Seeing as a large portion of the food grown and imported into the United Kingdom comes from the Mediterranean region, it is no surprise to find a species from this area turning up in some vegetables likely grown there. In my opinion, the snake was likely moving through the field at the time, before being scooped up by agricultural equipment, then seeking refuge within the broccoli.”
Not as Scary as They Look
“Viperine water snakes are dangerous only if you’re a fish (or a frog). They do not bite humans as a defense mechanism (they’d much rather play dead), and they are regarded as non-venomous to humans.” Additionally, these snakes can go months without food, especially in cold temperatures like a fridge, which would lower their metabolism. But the snake in question wouldn’t have liked the switch from the Mediterranean warmth to a chilly, crisper drawer.
But whether the reptile was a viperine water snake or a ladder snake, Allain hopes to educate the public about this species. People may become less afraid if they knew more about these delicate and misunderstood creatures.