According to the Food and Drug Administration and their guidelines to our food growers, there are probably quite a few insects in your ketchup, and other foods you eat. Tomato worms, flys, beetles, spiders and rat hair are just a few ‘added ingredients' that you will consume. In fact, it's guesstimated that the average American eats one to two pounds of bug parts each year, without even knowing it. Of course, there is a simple explanation for this: despite the worlds best pest control regulations and policies, there is no way our growers can keep all bugs out of our food. So the FDA allows a certain amount of bug parts and rat hair into our food supply.
Bug parts are a natural part of any harvest
When corn, wheat, vegetables and fruit are harvested, the bugs who happen to be in the field become a natural part of the process. Plus, insects and critters (like rats) find access to stored, harvested food and infest that, too. You can easily understand this if you've ever worked your own garden. Despite spraying with the right dose of Ortho, you still find earwigs in your lettuce, flys around your strawberries and tomato worms on your ‘maters'. It's impossible to keep the little buggers out. So you can easily see how this problem would magnify for our food growers (who do an awesome job for us, by the way).
As far as controlling bug parts in our foods, our food growers and the FDA agree that more pesticides are not a valid option. They believe that it's reasonable to accept more “natural contaminants' rather than increase the amount of pesticides. And they're right. Striving for a balanced bug control policy is their best responsible option, so that's what they do. Which means you and I are gonna' eat a couple pounds of bugs a year. Hey, it's added protein, right?
What bug parts are allowed?
Now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created grading standards which protect Americans from bad agriculture. Growers must follow these standards, which set legal limits for spoilage and natural contaminants. Working with the USDA, the FDA has created the ‘Food Defect Action Level' which lists acceptable levels of contaminant for the harvest of different foods. Now, don't get to squeamish here, but these bug parts include maggots, insect fragments, mold, rat hair, mammalian feces and squashed bugs. Hmmm… wonder how many spiders are in a can of spinach?
So, what's in what? For a full listing, you can check out the ‘Food Defect Action Level', but here are some highlights:
* chocolate – 60 insect fragments 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 grains 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 can be infested. (doesn't say with what)
* potato chips – up to 6% of potatoes may contain rot.
Of course, these are just a few out of a long and extensive bug parts list. But it's an eye-opener into the food gathering process, and the balanced problem-solving approach employed by our food growers and the FDA. Food is harvested for the masses in the best, most responsible way. Unfortunately, bugs are always going to be a natural nuisance and an unwitting participant in our diets. Hey, no process is perfect. Please pass the ketchup.