If the thought of sharing your picnic lunch with ants makes you squeamish, you won’t be happy to hear how many bugs make it into the foods you eat each day. From the farm to the industrial kitchen to the packaging plant, there are many opportunities for insects and other creatures to enter our food supply. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes that it would be impossible to keep foods completely free of contamination from the insects that inhabit our world. Therefore, the FDA puts out a Defect Levels Handbook outlining the allowable quantities of infestation in your food supply
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries grow near the ground or on bushes. Insects that enjoy these fruits may tag along as the berries are picked, cleaned, and then frozen or canned. You probably won’t notice that your berries contain up to four larvae, or the equivalent of 10 whole insects, per 500 grams. Fortunately, berries are high in the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that ward off heart disease and prevent cancer.
12. Canned Tomatoes
Two cups of canned tomatoes may contain up to 10 fly eggs, according to the FDA. That knowledge may be enough to inspire you to chop up fresh tomatoes to use in soups, sauces, and casseroles. Canned tomatoes also contain the vitamin C, lycopene, and fiber of their fresh counterparts. However, they may also be loaded with sodium. Recently, concern has been expressed over bisphenol A (BPA), which may leach into canned goods from the lining of cans.
11. Canned Corn
The FDA’s regulations on insect contamination in canned corn is a little too descriptive for most tastes. According to the Defect Levels Handbook, canned corn can contain “2 or more 3 mm or longer corn earworm larvae or corn borers.” Additionally, “cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments of corn earworms or corn borer and the aggregate length of such larvae, cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments” may not be greater than 12 mm in 24 pounds.
Not even chocolate can escape insects. If the high sugar and fat content aren’t enough to help you put down chocolate chip cookies, perhaps the insect count will. The FDA allows up to 60 insect fragments per four ounces of chocolate. Cocoa powder may contain up to 75 insect fragments per two ounces.
The ground cinnamon you enjoy in a gooey cinnamon roll may contain 100 insect fragments per tablespoon. Of course, this tasty spice also contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. That seems a fair tradeoff for a few insect parts. Additionally, a similar number of the little critters may be residing in ground pepper and nutmeg. Ground thyme can contain around 900 insect parts per tablespoon.
8. Coffee Beans
The accepted level of insect levels in green coffee beans is 10%. Green coffee beans are raw coffee beans that have not been roasted. It is the roasting process that brings out the familiar coffee aroma and flavor of the beans. While your morning cup of coffee may contain a few insect parts, it also contains disease-fighting antioxidants and the caffeine you may rely on to jump start your day.
The cornmeal you use for coating fish or baking muffins can contain as many as 50 insect parts per 1/3 cup. In addition to cooking with cornmeal, you can use it as an ingredient in an exfoliating mask for your face. Cornmeal is a mild abrasive. In a pinch, you can use it to scrub stuck-on food from pots and pans.
6. Frozen Broccoli
Broccoli is a nutrient-packed vegetable bursting with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These benefits are not decreased by the fact that frozen broccoli may contain up to 60 aphids, thrips, or mites per 100 grams. Aphids are tiny insects that feed on the sap from plants. Thrips are small winged insects that are attracted to flowers, leaves, and bark. Mites are tiny insects that are closely related to spiders.
5. Fruit Juice
Orange juice, apple juice, and pineapple juice may also contain insect parts, maggots, or fly eggs. Of greater concern are the high sugar levels found in these beverages. To get the full benefit of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber of fresh produce without added sugar, enjoy them whole. Inspect your fresh fruits for damage, give them a good scrubbing, and you won’t have to worry about pesky insects in them.
Canned mushrooms are allowed up to 20 maggots and 75 mites per 3.5 ounce serving. They may also be high in sodium compared to fresh mushrooms and carry a risk of contamination by BPA. On a positive note, canned mushrooms still retain the protein and fiber beneficial to your body. They are high in B vitamins and contain phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
3. Macaroni and Noodle Products
Dried pasta may contain 225 insect fragments per eight ounces. The wheat flour that goes into pasta may contain up to 75 insect fragments per 1/4 cup. Of course, pasta is also high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are much more likely to affect your health than a few insect fragments. Carbohydrates may be linked to diabetes, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome that increases your risk of heart disease.
These sweet little treats can contain up to 10 insects and 35 fly eggs per cup. They also contain vitamins such as vitamin C, folate, thiamine, and niacin. They are rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Raisins provide the fiber needed to promote healthy digestion. They are rich in iron, and the antioxidants they contain promote healthy skin, hair, and organs.
1. Peanut Butter
The peanut butter you enjoy on your morning toast may contain up to 30 insect fragments per 100 grams. That’s a little less than half a cup of the creamy spread. Fortunately, these little critters won’t cause you any harm. Peanut butter is also a low-carb source of protein packed with healthy monounsaturated fats. It is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Peanut butter, enjoyed in moderation, can be a delicious part of a healthy diet.