If the thought of eating an insect creeps you out, consider this – you are already eating them. Well, in most cases you are eating only bits and pieces of them in some of the foods you already buy. No, it’s not some sort of conspiracy aimed at slowly turning you into an insect protein fan, either. It’s something known as accidental ingestion.
Before I start to share the details on this, here is something to consider.
Have you ever noticed in recent years food product labeling changes that make a big deal out of peanuts? I mean the warnings that announce that the item you are about to bite into does not purposely contain peanuts. And because it was manufactured in a plant where peanut products are also part of the assembly line production, there could be a little peanut dust in that creamy whatever you just unwrapped.
If you have a peanut allergy you will totally appreciate the point being made here. In the case of peanuts, some people are so sensitive that just a minute amount is enough to set off a reaction. Plus, the warning labels are great ways to dodge a lawsuit. Just saying.
But what if the labels said something about the tiny bits of insects you may see in your food? As it turns out, that really isn’t an issue in either the United States or Canada thanks to something called accidental ingestion. Both countries have guidelines that outline how many bits of this or that insect is acceptable in certain food products sold to consumers.
Here’s a little sample of what I mean:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US says that, for example, bug parts must not exceed the 1 part per gram limit in pasta. In other words, a plate of spaghetti weighing in at 500-grams can have a maximum of 500 insect pieces in it and still be considered safe. Naturally that’s the extreme. Anything under a part per gram is a-ok and would be more likely the situation in that cardboard box of pasta you are thinking about cooking for supper.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) looks at these things as well and considers a head of cabbage with ten aphids on it a #1 Grade product. That grading drops down to #2 once that aphid population increases on that same head of cabbage. Plus, the #1 grading still applies if there is a cabbage worm present and several aphids on wrapper leaves. It drops down to #2 grading if the wrapper leaves have an ‘infestation’ of aphids.
Again, I am using extremes here to get across that you are already eating bugs without really knowing it. It’s obviously not going to harm you as all insects are a source of protein and that is why insects as food is not as farfetched an idea as it may sound. In fact, in many cultures they (the bugs) are already a staple in meals of all kinds.
Let’s also give the FDA and CFIA a nod for acknowledging that there really isn’t such a thing as the perfect ear of corn or bag of potatoes. Everything we grow as food also feeds those tiny insects or they wouldn’t be anywhere near the produce traveling from farm to store and to your table.
It should make it easier to stomach than wondering what is really in a hot dog or slab of bologna, shouldn’t it?
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.