Real Estate

How many insect parts are in your tomato sauce?

According to the Food and Drug Administration and their guidelines for our food growers, there are probably quite a few bugs in your ketchup and other foods you eat. Tomato maggots, flies, beetles, spiders, and rat hair are just a few of the “additional ingredients” you’ll be consuming. In fact, it’s estimated that the average American eats one to 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 insect parts and rat hair to enter our food supply.

Insect parts are a natural part of any crop.

When corn, wheat, vegetables and fruits are harvested, insects found in the field become a natural part of the process. Additionally, insects and critters (such as rats) find access to and infest stored and harvested food. 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 on his lettuce, flies around his strawberries, and tomato hornworms on his maters. It’s impossible to keep the little bastards away. So you can easily see how this problem would escalate for our food producers (who do an amazing job for us, by the way).

When it comes to controlling insect parts in our food, our food producers and the FDA agree that more pesticides are not an option. They believe that it is reasonable to accept more “natural pollutants” rather than increase the amount of pesticides. And they are right. Fighting for a balanced insect control policy is their best responsible option, so that’s what they do. Which means you and I are going to eat a couple of pounds of bugs a year. Hey, it’s added protein, right?

What parts of errors are allowed?

Now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created grading standards that protect Americans from poor farming. Producers 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 the acceptable levels of contaminants for the harvest of different foods. Now, don’t get squeamish here, but these insect parts include worms, insect fragments, mold, rat hair, mammalian feces, and crushed insects. Hmmm…I wonder how many spiders are in a can of spinach.

So what’s in what? For a full list you can refer to the ‘Food Defect Action Level’, but here are a few 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 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 can 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 about the food collection process and the balanced problem-solving approach employed by our food producers and the FDA. Food is collected for the masses in the best and most responsible way. Unfortunately, insects will always be a natural nuisance and an unwitting participant in our diets. Hey, no process is perfect. Please pass me the ketchup.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *