There are likely traces of animal poop, rat hair, and bug skin in some of your favorite foods — and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is okay with that.
The average 17 oz jar of peanut butter can legally contain up to five rodent hairs and still meet agency legal standards.
Each store-bought 3 oz bag of popcorn can ship with one rat poop pellet, and a standard 1.5 oz bar of chocolate is allowed for up to 30 insect parts.
Insect fragments are legs, antennae and other parts of the insects that can end up in the products. These ‘food defects’ enter food during raw material harvesting and during the manufacturing process.
The FDA says it is “economically impractical” for manufacturers to grow and harvest these products without at least some minor contamination.
The FDA allows defects such as rat feces, insect parts and mold to be present in people’s food. In coffee, up to 10 percent of the beans may be moldy and the same proportion may be infected with insects. One rat poop pellet is allowed in each popcorn sample. There can also be up to five rodent hairs in a jar of peanut butter and 30 insect parts in a single bar of chocolate.
From the desk Food Shortage Level Handbook notes that the levels stated in the guidelines are maximums, but the actual amounts in foods are often lower.
These defects are so small that they do not harm the consumer. Although insects are gross, they don’t typically cause foodborne illness.
While bacterial infections such as the sapovirus – most recently discovered in oysters recalled by the FDA – can cause illness and death.
The list of foods with permissible defects includes vegetables and fruits – fresh, canned and frozen – herbs, seafood and nuts. In total there are 111 products listed.
In some cases, such as canned corn, multiple full grubs are allowed as long as they don’t reach a certain length, while in others only light insect or rodent infestation is allowed.
Coffee — a staple daily meal for most working Americans — can be legally packaged, with up to 10 percent of the beans moldy or infested with bugs.
Cherry jam is allowed to contain a relatively high amount of mold, which is calculated by taking small samples from the spread and using a microscope.
If less than three of every 10 samples have mold, the FDA allows the product to be sold.
Meanwhile, up to 6 percent of your potato chips may contain rot, and some of your popcorn kernels may have been rat-gnawed.
FDA says it is ‘economically impractical’ for companies to completely remove rodent and insect spores from food
Coffee is one of the most popular products on the defect list.
Experts have long warned about mycotoxins — harmful chemicals created by mold — found in commercial coffee products.
Coffee beans are harvested from humid tropical environments where mold thrives and then doused in water during the production process.
If they are not dried properly before packaging, they will be sent on a long journey around the world while still wet, which can cause mold to develop on them.
Food for thought: Obese and overweight children have less developed brains than their peers, research shows
Overweight kids may struggle in school because piling on the pounds affects their brain health, a study suggests.
Researchers have found that higher weight and BMI in children can affect important areas of the brain’s connectivity.
This can affect attention spans and the ability to juggle multiple tasks, they warned.
The team, from the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, analyzed brain imaging data from 5,169 children between the ages of nine and 10.
They looked specifically at the connectivity between the neural regions and how much white matter was present, which is important for communication between different brain regions.
This was then compared to the children’s BMI z-scores, a measure of weight adjusted for a child’s age and sex.
It comes after a study found that eating junk food can cause pain or make people more sensitive to pain — even if they’re healthy and slim, a study suggests.
As a result, coffee beans on the supermarket shelf may contain an unwanted additional ingredient.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that consuming too much mycotoxin can lead to poisoning.
Coffee may also contain bits of insects – up to 10 percent of the product may show signs of contamination or damage from the insects.
Experts warn that coffee beans are often infested with insects before they are ground up for sale.
It can be nearly impossible to filter all the bugs out of coffee, which is why the FDA allows it to appear in packaging.
Cherries, like many other berries, will mold over time, especially if kept in a humid environment.
Jams are very moist and are often kept in a dark environment during production, making them a popular hot spot for mold.
Another popular spread, peanut butter, can be full of insect and rodent products.
The FDA allows up to 30 insect fragments and one rodent hair to be detected in every 100 grams of peanut butter. A standard jar of peanut butter is often between 300 and 500 grams.
This means that a single jar of peanut butter can contain about five rodent hairs and 150 insect fragments and still pass inspection.
The bugs come into proliferation when peanuts are harvested to be made into peanut butter — with the FDA saying they cannot reasonably be removed.
This also applies to peanuts, with the agency allowing 20 whole bugs for every 100-pound bag of the snack.
Rat dirt can also be found in movie theater favorites such as popcorn and chocolate bars.
Regulators allow for two rodent hairs and up to 20 gnawed kernels in every pound of pre-popped popcorn.
A maximum of one pellet of rat poop is allowed in each sample of popcorn kernels tested.
In chocolate, one rodent hair and up to 60 insect fragments are allowed in every 100 grams.
The typical chocolate bar sold in the US is about 50g, which means there could be up to 30 insect fragments in your Hershey’s.
The FDA takes the average of six 100-gram samples of a single product to determine whether the company is in compliance.
Another favorite snack, potato chips, also have acceptable defect levels.
The agency allows up to six percent of the chips content to contain potato rot.
Experts warn that this rot gives off solanine gas, a potentially deadly chemical if inhaled enough.
Potatoes often develop this rot if they are not stored properly in a place that is either too warm or gives them too much light.
True illness from solanine gas is rare in America and is usually related to someone spending too much time in potato cellars where some vegetables have gone bad – not from eating potato products.
Other foods with acceptable levels of mold, insect or rat spores include spices such as allspice, bay leaves, paprika, paprika, cinnamon, cumin and ginger.
Macaroni and noodle products can also contain up to 225 insect fragments and four rodent hairs per eight ounces.
Tree nuts, mushrooms, berries and a long list of fruits and vegetables are also on the FDA’s list of acceptable defects.
The agency says it can change defect levels and add or remove products from the list at its sole discretion. This list was last updated in 2018.