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13 Common Foods That Could Secretly Contain Insects

Updated: Jun. 12, 2024

If the thought of eating bugs makes you squirm, we have some bad news: You have probably been chowing down on these many-legged creatures for a long time.

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Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle pest of grain and grain products as well as home products, on buckwheat
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Insects in my food? Say what?!

You eat an average of one to two pounds of flies, maggots, and other bugs each year without even knowing it, according to the Scientific American blog. But don’t panic—they are perfectly safe to consume. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually permits a small number of insects in food products, because it would be impossible to filter them all out. Read on to learn just a handful of the 100 products that secretly contain insects. (Hint: You probably have most of them in your kitchen right now!)

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Peanut Butter
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Peanut butter

The 16-ounce jar of peanut butter in your pantry can contain up to 136 insect parts before it is deemed contaminated, according to the FDA’s Food Defect Action Levels guide. This may sound bizarre, but it’s not uncommon for insect fragments—including their heads, bodies, and legs—to accidentally end up in the food we eat. Bugs are constantly present during the food manufacturing process, from the field where the food is grown to the storage and transit of the food to your grocery store. Grossed out yet? Here are more disgusting things you didn’t know were in your food.

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Stack of chocolate pieces, close up
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By the FDA’s standards, the average 4.4-ounce chocolate bar may have up to 74 insect fragments. That means chocolate lovers could be adding nearly 6,000 pieces of bugs to their diets each year, according to a recent study by Terro, an ant and insect control company. But wait, there’s more: Cockroach parts are among the most common contaminants found in chocolate, Terro says.

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Macro closeup background texture of whole wheat rigatoni pasta
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The FDA legally allows up to 225 insect fragments per 225 grams of pasta before they ban the product from grocery store shelves. In case you didn’t do the math, that’s around one bug bit for each gram of pasta. Insects usually find their way into pasta through wheat, which can contain up to 75 insect parts per 50 grams (about ¼ cup).

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Roasted coffee beans background

Coffee beans

Brewers, beware: As you sip on that steaming-hot cup of coffee, you might also be drinking around 120 insect parts. The FDA approves coffee samples that are less than 10 percent insect-infested. At that rate, the average coffee drinker could unknowingly consume almost 140,000 insect fragments per year, according to Terro.

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Raisins as background Grape Raisin texture.


Just one cup of raisins can have up to 35 fruit fly eggs and ten whole insects, per FDA guidelines. Luckily, these critters won’t do any harm to your health. The FDA “allows for a small amount of insect material that is guaranteed safe for human consumption to pass into our food,” Terro writes. “Otherwise, resource costs would be too unmanageable to eliminate all defects from food production.”

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If a 3.5-ounce can of mushrooms contains 19 maggots and 74 mites, it is technically FDA-approved. While it might be gross to imagine chowing down on baby bugs, the fragments are so small that you likely won’t even realize they are there. Plus, there is a lot of nutritional value in these insects. Mealworms, another form of insect larva, provide more protein than chicken or salmon, according to Terro’s research.

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Collection backgrounds from a different foodstuff
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Frozen broccoli

Aphids are tiny bugs—they grow to just 2 to 5 millimeters in size—but they make up about 10 percent of the world’s consumed insects. Aphids are also “notorious for infesting” gardens and crop fields that grow produce like broccoli, Terro writes. The FDA allows up to 60 of these creatures per 100 grams of frozen broccoli. If you eat frozen broccoli regularly, Terro estimates you could be unintentionally eating over 1,600 aphids every year.

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a top view of opened can of diced tomatoes on white table

Canned tomatoes

A 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes must have more than 8 fly eggs or one maggot before the FDA considers it tainted. But you can rest assured that it’s not out of the ordinary to dine on insect eggs. In fact, they are one of the most common menu items in Mexico. Ahuahutle, also called Mexican caviar, is a local delicacy made with eggs of aquatic insects. Find out more bizarre foods you won’t believe people actually eat.

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Macro orange juice can be used for background
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Fruit juice

Under FDA rules, canned fruit juices can safely contain pieces of one maggot for every 250-milliliter sample. Everything from snails to mites enjoys feasting on fruit juice, too, and may wind up in your next beverage. While the idea of gulping down bugs might trigger your gag reflex, you shouldn’t feel pressured to pass on a morning glass of OJ. Insects are just a “part of the normal process of growing and processing food,” LiveScience writes.

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Ground black pepper background

Ground pepper

Salt and pepper are considered the yin and yang of condiments—and most of us season our food generously with both. But those days might soon be behind you. Believe it or not, up to 475 bug parts can end up in 50 grams (or ¼ cup) of ground pepper and still be considered safe to eat. That is a lot of insect heads and legs spicing up your meal.

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Cinnamon may work magic when it comes to slimming down your waistline, but it also harbors a big secret. The FDA allows up to 400 insect fragments per 50 grams (or ¼ cup) of cinnamon, their guidelines show. Although that shouldn’t cause you to skip the spice altogether, just keep in mind that those snickerdoodle cookies are not exactly vegetarian.

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Close up image of sauerkraut
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You already know to be wary of hot dogs, whose cellulose-lined tubes are stuffed with mystery meat. But you deserve a heads-up before piling on the condiments, too. Just a few helpings of sauerkraut could contain up to 50 small, stick-like critters called thrips, according to FDA guidelines. Learn more unbelievable food facts that will change how you eat.

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Raspberries and blueberries make sweet treats for insects like worms and beetles. Knowing this, the FDA allows up to four larvae or ten whole insects per 500 grams of berries, or about 2.5 cups. Translation? Don’t be surprised if these critters end up in your canned or frozen berries. Odds are, they will be too small to notice.