It’s a fact – worm and other pantry pest parts exist in the foods we eat. They are often ground up in the processing and end up in flour or corn meal. These bits and pieces are also present in canned or baked goods, too. As disgusting as that might seem, insects, including worms, are considered delicacies in some parts of the world. Beetles, grubs and other critters are valued for their taste as well as their high protein content!
The practice of willingly consuming worms and insects is called entomophagy. The truth is that most of us prefer to stick to foods that are more conventional. The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) does indeed have stringent testing in place for all our foods. However, those guidelines also include some leeway in the percentage of “natural contaminants” that can slip by. These so-called contaminants can be from any creature, including rodents.
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FDA officials believe that the minute particles are better for humans than increasing the amount of pesticides it takes to eliminate them. Several studies suggest that we consume from 1-2 pounds of insect parts and other debris in a normal lifetime. In other words, try not to think about maggots in your orange juice or a hair or two of a rat in your crunchy peanut butter. Those are “allowed” levels according to federal regulations.
If you’re ready to start consuming insects on purpose, here are a few tips.
You can purchase mealworms and crickets from pet suppliers, but they may not have the right taste. Their diet needs to be adjusted to include oats and other natural ingredients. In a few days, they’ll be perfect.
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Always rinse worms and insects in a colander. For crickets, dump them in and place a wire mesh screen on top to keep them from escaping. After washing well, place in a baggie and freeze for a few minutes. Re-rinse and they’re ready to be consumed or roasted.
Mealworms are a favorite and recommended for those just beginning to discover the protein benefits. They can be eaten alive, roasted, sauteed, or fried. Some prefer to remove the heads, but it’s not necessary.
While many types of bugs and other creatures are harmless, a few in particular can cause problems. The collective group known as warehouse beetles can cause some discomfort if ingested. They have abdominal hairs that act as an irritant. The maggot stage of the cheese skipper, a type of fly, can also cause serious distress including intestinal lesions.
The bottom line is that finding evidence of worms or moths in a box of raisins or in a bag of flour probably will cause no harm. You may want to toss the raisins, but it’s also possible to sift the flour and it will be perfectly usable. The same goes for pasta products. When cooking, the worms (larvae) or other pests will float to the top and can be scooped out. Not necessarily appetizing, but definitely not life threatening.