Did you know there can be 450 insect parts and nine rodent hairs in every 16 oz. box of spaghetti? There's no way to get rid of all the creatures that might hitch a ride along the food processing chain, but the US Food and Drug Administration has set some food defects standards to keep them to a minimum.
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Sorry, but it's true. Chocolate can contain insect fragments and rodent hairs (or worse). If you're eating a regular-size chocolate bar (43 grams), it might legally contain 30 or more insect parts and some rodent hair.
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The tomato juice in that 14 oz. Bloody Mary could legally contain up to four maggots and 20 or more fruit fly eggs. Canned tomatoes, tomato paste and sauces such as pizza sauce are a bit less contaminated, with the FDA allowing nearly two maggots in a 16 oz. can.
Asparagus can contain 40 or more scary-looking but teensy thrips for every ¼ pound. If those aren't around, FDA inspectors look for beetle eggs, entire insects or heads and body parts.
Those golden raisins you feed your toddler are allowed to contain 35 fruit fly eggs as well as 10 or more whole (or equivalent) insects for every 8 ounces. Kid-sized containers of raisins are an ounce each. That's more than four eggs and a whole insect per box.
How about our old stand-by, peanut butter and jelly? Good news: Peanut butter is one of the most controlled foods in the FDA list; an average of one or more rodent hairs and 30 (or so) insect fragments are allowed for every 100 grams. The typical serving size for peanut butter is two tablespoons, which would allow for only eight insect fragments and a teensy tiny bit of rodent filth. Jelly, however, is not as controlled. Cherry jam can have up to 30% moldy fruit, which is better than black currant jam, which can be 75% moldy.
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Apple butter can contain an average of four or more rodent hairs per 100 grams and about five whole insects -- in addition to who knows how many teensy mites, aphids, and thrips. It can also have up to 12% mold.
As you sprinkle that pepper on your morning eggs, try not to think about the fact you may be eating more than 40 insect fragments with every teaspoon, along with a smidgen of rodent hair.
The coffee beans you grind for breakfast are allowed to have an average of 10 milligrams or more animal poop per pound. As much as 4% to 6% of beans are also allowed to be insect-infested or moldy.
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Did you have fruit for breakfast? Common fruit flies can catch a ride anywhere from field to harvest to grocery store, getting trapped by processors or freezing in refrigerated delivery trucks and ending up in your home.
The canned sweet corn we love is allowed to have two or more larvae of the corn ear worm, along with larvae fragments and the skins the worms discard as they grow.
The smell of corn muffins can make your mouth water, but how do you feel about biting into insect parts and rodent poop? For every ¼ cup of cornmeal, the FDA allows an average of one or more whole insects, two or more rodent hairs and 50 or more insect fragments, or one or more fragments of rodent dung.
Don't tell the kids, but frozen or canned spinach is allowed to have an average of 50 aphids, thrips and mites. If those are missing, the FDA allows larvae of spinach worms or eight whole leaf miner bugs.
For every 4 oz. can of mushrooms there can be an average of 20 or more maggots of any size. At least they may be the same color, right?
Dismembered insects can be found in many of our favorite spices as well. Crushed oregano, for example, can contain 300 or more insect bits and about two rodent hairs for every 10 grams. To put that in context, a typical bottle of oregano is 3.12 oz. or 88 grams.