Unfortunately, insect body parts, and in some cases, intact insects are found within store-bought foods. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the amount of insect matter that inadvertently contaminates food products during manufacturing, storing and shipping. These regulations allow for a small amount of insect contaminants within food, as researchers have traditionally believed that a small amount of insect-matter is harmless to humans. However, recent research has revealed that even a small amount of certain types of insect matter within food can, indeed, be harmful to some individuals. Some forms of insect matter in food can trigger allergic reactions and can even damage digestive organs.

Some of the most common insects that contaminate store-bought food items include beetles, larval flies (maggots) and moths. Food items often contain exoskeletons shed by maturing insects, and eating foods containing these, and many other types of insects, can cause irritation and/or allergic reactions when consumed. Medical professionals are often consulted by parents after learning that their children had eaten maggots found within cereals, candy bars and numerous other foods. In most cases, these “maggots” turn out to be moth, beetle or fly larvae, and eating foods that are contaminated with insect larvae rarely result in medical complications. However, many larval beetle species, especially Dermestidae species, have barbed hairs that have been known to cause irritation and even damage to tissues within the digestive tract in humans who unknowingly consume food contaminated with Dermestidae larvae. Symptoms include diarrhea, digestive issues and abdominal pain. Cockroaches, as well as cockroach feces and vomit are the most common allergen sources found within manufactured food items, and they account for the majority of medical cases involving the ingestion of insect-contaminated foods. In one case, a woman became ill after consuming store-bought peanut brittle contaminated with the larvae of Indian meal moths, which are common insect pests of foodstuffs. Indian meal moths can also infest homes where larvae invade packaged food items kept within pantries and kitchen cupboards.

Have you ever found a maggot within store-bought food?