This may sound strange, but it is not ordinary for insect components, including their heads, bodies, and legs, to wind up in our meals. Bugs are present at all stages of the food manufacturing process, from the farm where the food is cultivated through the storage and transportation of the food to your local supermarket. They can also be found within some popular brand-name foods such as corn flakes, pasta, and baked goods.
Insects are always going to be present in some amount because they are part of the natural environment. However, there are ways that they can be increased unintentionally during processing. For example, when cooking meat, insects can fall into the pot or on to a hotplate and get fried. When baking, insects will usually escape into the air where they will die off but if they are trapped inside the cake then you have an extra portion of protein to eat!
There are several types of insect that may be found within processed foods. Here are the most common:
Bugs that are visible to the naked eye include ants, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and beetles. These insects range in size from tiny ant eggs (ant larvae) that are 1/16th of an inch long up to nearly three inches long for the giant water beetle.
Ants are likely to be found within processed foods because they like to eat leftover food and any other organic material such as pollen or fungi.
When you consider the amount of food you've consumed over time and the number of insect pieces permitted in that food, you get a lot of bugs. Terro, an insect control firm, created a graphic with such data.
A little child consumes dried mealworms seasoned with an African rub of cinnamon, coriander, pepper, and other spices purchased at a Berlin business that sells insects for human use. Some people, in fact, a large number of them, consume bugs on purpose. The rest of us eat them by chance. And we're not talking about a stray ant or aphid here and there.
According to a new research by an insect control business, we consume 140,000 "bug pieces" every year on average. Mealworm, maggot, and roach fragments have been identified in foods such as chocolate, coffee, and wheat flour. It's perfectly legal: the FDA permits trace levels of insect debris in our meals. The study's author estimates that these insects account for only 1% of the total food supply, but they contain up to 10% of the iron, zinc, and calcium we need daily.
Insects are a major source of protein for many people around the world. In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, insects constitute about one-third of all meat consumed today, with most of it being consumed in Asia. The United States is the second largest consumer, following China, which accounts for half of all insect consumption.
People eat insects because they think it's tasty or as part of their diet plan. However, eating insects should not be considered an alternative to conventional meat products; instead, it's something unique and different. Insects are nutritious and can provide a variety of nutrients that may otherwise be unavailable in a typical Western diet. They contain high levels of protein and low levels of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol compared to other meats. A 100-gram (3.5 oz) serving contains between 35 and 80 percent of the recommended daily intake of several minerals and vitamins including calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
In most Western nations, eating insects is still rare. It evokes revulsion and dread, which are strongly felt and difficult to overcome. When people finally take the jump, they often say they quickly forget what all the excitement was about.
Eating insects is not new, of course. People have been eating spiders, worms, ants, and other invertebrates for thousands of years. In fact, insect consumption is so common that it's considered normal or even tasty in many parts of the world.
But eating insects is not only normal or even tasty, it's also nutritious. They contain lots of protein as well as other nutrients such as zinc, calcium, and iron.
Most people think eating insects is gross because they associate them with crawling creatures. But actually, insects move their bodies in a linear way, just like us. And although they may look strange or even repulsive at first glance, once you try one you'll see how delicious they can be.
People also worry about bacteria or viruses from insects transferring themselves to other food. This can happen if you eat insects raw but isn't a concern when they're cooked. In fact, there are many examples of foods that are eaten raw by some people but not by others, like strawberries and lettuce.