Can you eat lettuce that has slugs on it?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat lettuce that has slugs on it?”. We will also elaborate on whether the lettuce is safe to consume with slugs, and how we can remove the slugs from lettuce.

Can you eat lettuce that has slugs on it?

No, you can not eat lettuce with slugs on it. Research has found that slugs can carry different parasites along with them. These parasites could be in hundreds, which are not from a specific source, but these could be from multiple sources. 

What are the reasons to avoid lettuce with slugs?

One of the concerns that inhibit the consumption of lettuce with slugs is (1): 

Slugs might come in contact with the feces of rodents. Rodents such as mice carry on the process of excretion throughout their movement. 

The larvae of parasites exist in the feces of rodents. Whenever a slug comes near the feces, that larvae of parasites pass on to the slug that can be further transformed into all those things to which slugs touch.

So, eating such lettuce that has slugs on it, that consists of even a very minor amount of bacteria, parasites, and germs can cause different issues which are described below.

Diseases caused by eating lettuce that has slugs on it

Angiostrongyliasis

Angiostrongyliasis is one of the states that is caused due to parasitic infections. It disturbs the normal body’s function and can also leave a strong impact on brain functioning.

Infection by the nematode Angiostrongylus cantonensis (angiostrongyliasis) is one of the main causes of eosinophilic meningitis, the disease commonly called rat lungworm disease (1).

Eosinophilic meningitis

It is characterized by inflammation that could take place in the lining of the brain. It could lead to the swelling of brain parts and also to the loss of limb functions.

As a disease that is not widely known or understood by medical practitioners, and because mild cases may not be diagnosed and the aetiological agent therefore remains undetected, it may spread rapidly without being noticed. Severe cases may result in long term neurological damage, coma, or death (1)

Are slugs poisonous for humans?

Slugs are friendly but these could be poisonous or harmful to humans when consumed. By eating, they can cause severe disorders in the human body.

Rats are the definitive hosts and the intermediate hosts of the parasite are snails and slugs (snails are slugs that have lost or internalized their shell through evolution). Humans become infected as accidental hosts by ingesting third stage A. cantonensis larvae carried by snails. As in the natural definitive rat host, these third stage larvae penetrate the intestine wall and enter the circulatory system, from where they cross into the central nervous system, eventually reaching the brain where they mature to the fifth (subadult) stage. However, instead of returning to the circulatory system to mature and reproduce in the pulmonary artery, as in the rat, with newly hatched first stage larvae passing up the rat’s trachea to be swallowed and expelled in the feces, these sub adult worms move around within the human brain, eventually dying there. The resulting neurological damage within the brain, combined with the immunological response to the worms, especially the dead worms, causes eosinophilic meningitis (1).

Where and when we can find the slugs?

A common slug found in lettuce is small is the Deroceras panormitanum, a slim slug up to 30 mm in length. Mantle is approximately one-third the length of the body. Mucus is colorless and very sticky. The body is usually brown but can also be gray. Sole usually is light gray. It can be found in greenhouses, gardens, pastures, nurseries and commercial cropping systems (2).

Slugs are also described as nocturnals. This term is described for those organisms who are found at night time, which means they are night loving. Due to this reason, it is difficult to find them in the daytime.

But in chilled and moist areas, these can be seen on the top of the ground where they enjoy sucking the moisture from the surface and also drinking water from the plants. They are easily found in sources of cover, such as old pieces of wood, rocks or stones, flower pots, old sheets of plastic, and sprinkler valve box covers (2).

There are some common areas where there is more certainty to find the slugs. people can search for them for certain reasons like for pets, or to emit them. So, below are some of the places where they are mostly available (2):

  • At Marshes, maybe in the surrounding or internal spaces
  • They can be hiding underground so they could be present below the dirt
  • Could also be present below the floorings in outside, such as wood floor
  • In those areas of gardens where mostly water supplies are available such as it can be below the hose
  • The most common origin of slugs is a place near the vegetables and fruits in the garden

Do slugs eat the lettuce?

Yes, they can eat the lettuce. Slugs are herbivores. They are always found scratching the vegetables, especially fresh. During crop development, lettuce heads provide suitable conditions to slugs and slug reproduction as it is moist and cool, which may result in inside damage and fecal contamination affecting product quality (2). The detection of slugs can be made by observing the holes in lettuce leaves. These holes would be tiny and irregularly arranged.

What is the way to clean such lettuce leaves which consist of slugs?

Whenever you purchase lettuce from the supermarket or even if it is being grown in the garden, you should focus only on the fresh ingredients for cooking and eating.

Cleanliness of all the vegetables and fruits either you have bought from the supermarket or taken from your garden. Proper cleanliness will ensure good health that will reduce the chance of illness and diseases.

A study compared washing solutions for the effective removal of snails of different ages. Washing solutions used were sodium hypochlorite (0.09%), acetic acid (1%), and sodium chloride (3%), with tap water as the control. The lettuce heads were soaked in these washing solutions for 10 minutes. All (100%) snails were removed only after washing, rinsing the whole lettuce head under cold running tap water, and then washing each individual leaf under cold running tap water. Almost all the snails placed on the outside of the lettuce heads were removed by the washing procedure (1).

Cleaning lettuce from the garden

Lettuce needs a proper checkup such as care, maintenance, and good upkeep during their growth. Slugs on the lettuce may derail your activity of eating and cooking lettuce.

To clean lettuce properly from all unwanted things, you should fill a bowl with water and put the required lettuce in this bowl. Leave the bowl for 30 min to one hour at rest, then stir the leaves first at the start then at the end. Let the lettuce leave its all residues including dirt and slugs. However, it is necessary to rinse and wash the individual lettuce leaves under running tap water to ensure total removal of the snails (1).

Ensure the lettuce is cleaned and then enjoy it after cooking.

Other FAQs about Lettuce that you may be interested in.

How to preserve lettuce

How long does lettuce last?

Can you eat brown lettuce?

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat lettuce that has slugs on it?” We have also elaborated on whether the lettuce is safe to consume with slugs, the diseases caused by eating lettuce that has slugs on it and how we can remove the slugs from lettuce.

References

  1. Yeung, Norine W., Kenneth A. Hayes, and Robert H. Cowie. Effects of washing produce contaminated with the snail and slug hosts of Angiostrongylus cantonensis with three common household solutions. Hawai’i J Med Public Health, 2013, 72, 2013, 83.
  2. McDonnell, Rory. Slugs: A guide to the invasive and native fauna of California. UCANR Publications, 2009.