Monday, January 14, 2008

Eating Bugs

I had a brief chat with a caller to the station today about bugs in food. the talk started ordinarily enough about making bread. Then I asked where she stored her flour. And the conversation got worse (for her) from there. Last year I discovered tiny holes in my flour bin. They looked like tunnels or air holes so I went looking for the source in the flour. And I found a few worms. Tiny little worms, but worms just the same. Actually, they were probably larvae of a beetle but they were worm-like. A quick scan of the internet and there they were: flour beetles. So I did indeed have beetle larvae. Cool.

My caller didn't recall seeing anything like that in her flour but I'll bet you a buck after she hung up the phone she went to check. I keep my flour in the fridge now. All that does is keep the eggs from hatching so I'm still ingesting a little extra protein with eveything I bake, but that's no big deal to me. Actually, I began wondering about "allowable" numbers of insects or other foreign material in food.

And that led me to the FDA. In Canada we have an equivalent department, but the FDA regulations are easier to find and I suspect limits are pretty much the same.

A look at Wikipedia and you'll discover that in 100 grams of peanut butter, the allowable number of insect parts is 30. In canned citrus juice, 5 fruit fly or other fly eggs are allowable per 250 ml of juice.

We've all had the experience of finding a bug in our food at some point. I remember being 16 and pouring myself a bowl of puffed wheat. From the bag and into the bowl fell...a puffed fly! That just gave me the giggles all day. And every time I heard about "Puff Daddy", my little fly was what came to mind.

My mother likes to tell the story of when I was 2 and ate an ant at the playground. Mom ate one herself, figuring that if I got sick, she would too, and then she'd be able to tell the doctor what was wrong with me. That's a mother's love for you.

We ingest bugs when we're outside running around, when we're sleeping, even when we're working. I recall a local weatherman in the middle of his forecast on live TV starting to cough and choke. He had swallowed a fly. That made the blooper reel.

The Museum of Natural History in Halifax has regular bug cooking and bug eating "seminars" for kids. It's a big souce of amusement for them, as anything gross is amusing to kids.( Just say the words poop and boogie to them and watch them roll around on the floor in laughter. ) Bugs are a part of people's diet in many countries and were probably a source of nutrition for early man as well. Don't freak too much over unknowingly ingesting these little creatures. You've been doing it for years.


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