According to the Food and Drug Administration and their guidelines for our food producers, there are probably quite a few insects in your tomato sauce and other foods you eat. Tomato worms, flies, beetles, spiders, and rat hair are just a few of the “added ingredients” you will consume. In fact, it is estimated that the average American eats between one and two pounds of insect parts each year, without even knowing it. Of course, there is a simple explanation for this: despite the best pest control regulations and policies in the world, there is no way our growers can keep all insects out of our food. So the FDA allows a certain amount of rat hair and insect parts in our food supply.
Insect parts are a natural part of any crop.
When corn, wheat, vegetables and fruits are harvested, the insects found in the field become a natural part of the process. In addition, insects and creatures (such as rats) find access to stored and collected food and also infest them. You can easily understand this if you have ever worked in your own garden. Despite spraying with the correct dose of Ortho, he still finds earwigs in his lettuce, flies around his strawberries, and tomato worms in his ‘maters’. It’s impossible to keep the little bastards away. So you can easily see how this problem would magnify for our food producers (who, by the way, do an amazing job for us).
When it comes to controlling insect parts in our food, our food producers and the FDA agree that more pesticides are not a valid option. They believe it is reasonable to accept more “natural pollutants” rather than increasing the amount of pesticides. And they are right. Fighting for a balanced insect control policy is your best responsible option, so that’s what they do. Which means that you and I are going to eat a couple of pounds of insects a year. Hey, it’s added protein, right?
What parts of insects are allowed?
Now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created classification standards that protect Americans from poor farming. Producers must follow these standards, which set legal limits for spoilage and natural contaminants. In collaboration with the USDA, the FDA has created the ‘Food Defects Action Level’ which lists the acceptable levels of contaminants for the harvest of different foods. Now, don’t worry here, but these insect parts include worms, insect fragments, mold, rat hair, mammalian feces, and squashed insects. Hmmm … I wonder how many spiders are in a can of spinach.
So what’s in what? For a complete list, you can refer to the ‘Food Defects Action Level’, but here are some highlights:
* chocolate: 60 fragments of insects per 100 grams, 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.
* macaroni: 225 insect fragments per 225 grams and / or 4.5 rodent hairs per 225 grams.
* Popcorn: 2 rodent hairs per pound and / or 20 or more gnawed kernels per pound
* peanut butter: 30 insect fragments per 100 grams and / or 1 rodent hair per 100 grams
* coffee: up to 10% of the beans may be infested. (does not say with what)
* French fries: up to 6% of potatoes may contain rot.
Of course, these are just a few of a long and extensive list of bug parts. But it is an eye-opener on the food collection process and the balanced problem-solving approach employed by our food producers and the FDA. Food is harvested for the masses in the best and most responsible way. Unfortunately, insects will always be a natural nuisance and an unintended participant in our diets. Hey, no process is perfect. Please pass the ketchup.