ATHENS, Ohio (U-WIRE) — In certain food items a person expects to find a special treat inside, but a loaf of Wonder Bread is not one of them.
The “special treat” can be various things. A person expects to find a Twinkie or any other such Hostess treat stuffed with cream filling. I remember as a child rummaging through a box of Cracker Jacks to find the toy at the bottom. The story I am about to tell, though, does not involve finding a pair of 3-D glasses with a loaf of Wonder Bread.
The special treat my mother-in-law found in her loaf of “America’s favorite bread” was a perfectly baked, full (albeit sliced) cockroach.
At first, she did not recognize that it was an insect. She was just concerned because she noticed a black spot in the middle of her slice of calcium-enriched goodness. Upon closer inspection she found the rest of the roach in the next three slices.
This is the part of the story that gets me — she calmly threw the rest of the bread away and said, “You’ll get that.”
You’ll get that? Since when did it become acceptable to find insects in various baked goods? I checked up on this, and while it’s stomach turning, it’s more accepted than the average person might think.
We’ll start as you reach for your breakfast. OK, hold on. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. To those people who don’t have class before 2 p.m., breakfast is a meal eaten by freshmen who have to take an 8 a.m. class because all the others were full. Now, as I was saying…
If you drink a glass of orange juice to get you going in the morning, know that by Food and Drug Administration standards, it is acceptable to have about five fly eggs in a serving no bigger than a can of pop. Now reaching for the apple butter for your toast, keep in mind the average jar is allowed to have about 15 rodent hairs or 20 whole insects (not counting mites) and still pass inspections. I guess if you only find 14 hairs, you’re out of luck.
For lunch, a meal that everyone should be familiar with, what’s better than a quick helping of macaroni, insect fragments and cheese? While I realize this isn’t as catchy of a name, it’s more honest. To quote the FDA’s Web site on food-defect action levels, it takes an “average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more sub-samples” to cause concern.
This means the average box of Kraft “Macaroni & Cheese” is allowed to have about an antenna or leg per noodle. Also interesting to note is it takes six or more samples to prove something is wrong at the Kraft plant, because four boxes in which the antennas outnumber the noodles just isn’t enough to prove a problem exists.
The other quick lunch alternative, peanut butter and jelly, isn’t much safer. A typical jar of peanut butter (about 500 grams) is allowed to have about 145 insect fragments or about 5 rodent hairs — still better than apple butter.
For a snack between classes, don’t eat a chocolate sundae if you don’t like the idea of having about 400 insect fragments present in a 24-ounce bottle of chocolate syrup. Without more than this, the company won’t feel any repercussions. The 400 number doesn’t include those added by the dining hall staff.
Ordering a pizza for dinner presents more added protein. The sauce is permitted to have 30 fly eggs per 100 grams. This means that on an average pizza, there can be about 120 eggs. If you like mushrooms on top, have a microscope handy because the FDA needs an “average of over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms and proportionate liquid or 15 grams of dried mushrooms” to worry about the safety. And you thought your biggest concern was if it was going to get there in 30 minutes or less.
After all this, my question to the FDA is this: Does a complete cockroach only count as one insect fragment? It’s really scary to think that all this is permissible. But don’t stop eating Reeses Cups, because as the FDA says, the guidelines outlined here are “unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard.”
Check out the Web sites yourself: the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/dalbook.html##CHPTR) and the FDA compliance policy guide (http://www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/cpg/cpgfod/cpgfood.htm.). Happy eating and enjoy all that chocolate Halloween candy.
Aaron Reincheld’s column originally appeared in Ohio University’s The Post on Oct. 24. Send comments to [email protected]