Survival Update

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You’re Probably Eating Cockroaches in Your Food

You are likely to be eating parts of cockroaches and other creepy-crawly creatures in your food every day and not even know it!

The food you eat every day is probably loaded with bugs and insect parts, and that is perfectly fine with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In setting its regulatory standards, the FDA’s Food Defect Levels Handbook differentiates between unnatural contaminants — such as chemicals and pesticides, and natural contaminants like dust, dirt, and insects — and how much of each type is safe for humans to eat.

Given how common these “natural contaminants” are and how difficult it really would be for food producers and processors to keep our food supply completely free from them, far more “natural contaminants are allowed” in our food than truly harmful things like pesticides. For this reason, we are all likely eating bits of insects and a few other gross things that have hitched a ride on the food along the way. 

And yes, that allowance includes roach parts. But as disgusting as that sounds,  should you happen to bite down on one or even just a little bit of one, chances are there will be few ill effects. At worst, you could end up with a bad case of food poisoning – and that would be only if you ate a lot of food that had roach parts significantly above the allowances. That’s exactly what the  FDA counted on when the agency set its standards for how many insect parts the typical food producer can allow into our food supply.

As gross as the thought is, insects are generally not toxic or unhealthy in any way. In fact, in many countries, they are eaten purposely as a delicacy and a source of protein. But here in the states, you may be “bugged out” that in your favorite chocolate candy bar, for example, there’s an average of eight insect parts allowed in each piece, and that means that big chocolate eaters could consume thousands of bug bits each year!

And according to the FDA handbook, pasta is allowed a few hundred insect bits per every hundred grams before it has to be removed from market shelves.

As insect consumption, whether intentional or otherwise, increases all over the world, it’s also notable that what might at first be considered a food allergy — such as to chocolate — could be an insect allergy instead, per the Allergen Bureau.