It never fails. Whenever I talk to school children about entomophagy, a kid or two will blurt out something along the lines of: “No way. I’m never going to eat a bug. That’s so gross.”
And that’s when I break the news.
Even if you’ve never intentionally snacked on a scorpion, you’ve eaten bugs. For real.
Insects, insect parts, and insect eggs are in most of our foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has laws that regulate the number of insects, insect parts, or eggs that are allowed in foods. The agency’s Food Defect Levels Handbook explains that there are maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard. It goes on to list thousands of foods and the allowable “defects” in them. Sometimes the defect is mold or rodent hairs. Often, though, the defect is insects and insect parts.
Ever eat a PB&J sandwich? Did you know four tablespoons of peanut butter can legally contain up to 17 insects or insect parts. A cup of chocolate can contain up to 60 aphids, thrips, or mites. A cup of canned fruit juice can contain up to 5 fly eggs or 1 maggot.
Think you’ll just eat pizza and avoid all the insects? Ha. The flour used to make the crust can contain up to 150 insect fragments per cup. Pizza sauce can contain 15 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per cup. And a half cup of canned or dried mushrooms can have an average of 10 maggots of any size.
By now, these No-Way-No-How kids are often staring into space. And that’s when I tell them the good news: They’ve been eating these foods for years and they’re still alive. They’re healthy and thriving and they didn’t even know they were eating it. (And this is when I give a plug for adding cricket powder to sauces and baked goods, because you really can’t taste it and it’s good for you and good for the planet.)
So, you can continue to say you’re not going to eat insects. Or, you can face the facts and admit – you’re already an entomophage.