5 or More Bugs You May Be Eating Every Day

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a certain level of bugs (and bug parts) to be present in our food supply. People call this the “ick factor.” The truth is, there is a good chance we are all eating a variety of insects every day in a wide variety of foods. Although it may sound gross, the truth is eating insects is trendy. Last month I was called upon the media to talk about food trends for 2015, and I made sure to include cricket protein from Next Millennium Farms in my lineup because it's growing in popularity across North America.

It’s not uncommon to find an insect or two lurking in fresh vegetables, especially when the items come straight from the farm or the produce stand. It’s also not unusual to accidentally swallow a bug or two during your lifetime. However, it’s been estimated that the average person unintentionally consumes about one pound of bugs per year.

Where do these bugs come from? The FDA allows specific amounts of insects and insect parts (as well as mold, excrement, rodent hairs, mold, and grit) in our food supply. It also has established what it calls action levels, which means a food item can contain levels of insects (and other foreign materials) below the stated amounts. These bugs and other substances enter the food supply during harvesting and processing.

Read about the health and environmental benefits of consuming insect protein

The FDA states that these action levels are necessary because it is “economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects.” The substances allowed in foods are not considered to be harmful by the FDA; in fact, hazardous components “are subject to regulatory action whether or not they exceed the action levels.”

When levels of so-called non-dangerous items equal or exceed the action level, that’s when the FDA steps in. Thus action levels “represent limits at which FDA will regard the food product ‘adulterated,’ and subject to enforcement under Section 402(a)(3) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act.”

Icky bugs you may be eating

Here’s a list of specific bugs you may be eating, some of the foods you may find them in, and the action levels for each. I have also included a category called “Miscellaneous,” because the FDA has classifications known as “insect filth” (which includes insect fragments), insect larvae, and “insects,” all of which do not name specific bugs.

Read more about controversial foods you might be eating everyday

1. Thrips

Approximately 6,000 different species of thrips can be found around the world. These minute (1-2 mm long) insects also are allowed in varying amounts in some foods. Sample action levels:

  • Sauerkraut: more than 50 thrips per 100 grams
  • Spinach (canned or frozen): 50 or more thrips and/or aphids and/or mites per 100 grams
  • Asparagus (canned or frozen): 40 or more thrips and/or aphids and/or mite per 100 grams
  • Brussels sprouts: 30 or more thrips and/or aphids per 100 grams


Image: Maximilian Paradiz

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By Andrea Donsky| February 11, 2015
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Andrea Donsky

Andrea Donsky

Founder & Chief Passionista at NaturallySavvy.com. See my full bio here.

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