I realize that in some parts of the world, bugs are considered a reliable source of protein. But the people who eat those bugs do so willingly. It's a normal part of their diet. Here in the United States, we're pretty squeamish about chomping into insects or stabbing our forks into larvae. And that's why it might come as a shock to discover that, because of the FDA's lax food-safety regulations, your food might very well be crawling with creepy, slimy, buzzing things of all sorts. In fact, it's been estimated that the average person unintentionally eats a pound of insects every year. And I'm not talking about gummy worms here. I'm talking about real live (or formerly live) bugs.
With the help of Rodale.com writer Emily Main, we've identified a few of the more disgusting bugs infiltrating your food. Prepare to be grossed out.
ThripsAt anywhere from 1/25 to 1/8 of an inch long, these tiny little winged parasites are legally allowed in apple butter, canned or frozen asparagus, frozen broccoli, and frozen Brussels sprouts.
AphidsThose same little green or black bugs that can destroy a bouquet of flowers can infiltrate your frozen veggies, particularly spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. And if you home-brew beer, you might consider growing your own hops: The FDA legally allows 2,500 aphids for every 10 grams of hops.
LENIENT LEGISLATORS: Pest control isn't the only area where the FDA is lax—many food-packaging claims are entirely unregulated by the government! Don't believe it?
MitesThese tiny white bugs are common in wheat and other grains that have been stored for a while, but expect to eat a few with your frozen vegetables. And if you have indoor allergies, that could be a problem. Storage and grain mites can cause the same type of allergic reaction as the dust mites common in homes.
MaggotsIf you’ve ever eaten canned food, you’ve probably also eaten a maggot. These disgusting little critters abound in things like canned mushrooms, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and pizza sauces, as well as fresh or frozen Maraschino cherries. Mushrooms are by far the worst: 20 maggots are allowed for every 100 grams of drained mushrooms, compared with between 1 and 5 for every 500 grams of tomato products.
SCARIEST FOOD ADDITIVES: Some gross ingredients, like bugs, are supposed to be removed from food. Others, like the 15 Scariest Food Additives, should never be added in the first place.
Fruit FliesBuy a piece of fruit covered in fruit flies, and you can wash them off. Buy a can of citrus juice, and you’ll be swilling five fruit flies with every 8-ounce cup of juice. Grab an 8-ounce handful of raisins and you could be eating as many as 35 fruit-fly eggs.
Not sure how to pick the best produce? No problem. Master the Produce Aisle and you'll know what, when, and where to buy all year-round.
Corn Ear WormsCorn is notoriously difficult to grow organically, because it’s prone to insect infestations. But in most cases, it’s easy to avoid eating the earworms that burrow into corncobs and eat the silk—just cut the kernels off the cob, and voilà! However, canned sweet corn will come with some extra crunch from all the larvae, skins, and skin fragments allowed by the FDA.
CHUCK BOMBS: If bugs don't scare you, maybe this will: Applebee's Quesadilla Burger has more than 1,200 calories! And that's not even the worst we found! Check out our complete list of the 15 Worst Burgers in America!