Bugs: Guess who’s coming to dinner?

By: Jennifer Pretty Jun 19, 2012
bugs in food

If you have opened up a box of pasta, a bag of flour or a box of cereal that may have been older than you calculated, you might have spied a few mites or mealy worms. A bit of a surprise, and definitely gross, most of us just throw it out without incident and hope we can find something else to eat. After all, it’s pretty rare that this happens, right?

Did you ever consider the possibility that it’s not all that rare or random? No, this isn’t some trick question or the lead in to my foray into Sci-Fi writing.

If you knew what’s lurking in your frozen spinach or canned peas, would you still eat them? This is a question I had to ask myself the other day when I came across a series of articles about the various nasty things that make their way into our food. And I don’t mean because you left a container slightly ajar or because you placed it on a shelf and forgot about it. I mean food that in the process of picking, canning or freezing, bugs (some harmless and some not so harmless) were never washed off or inspected before they made their way to your dinner table. And to make matters worse? Up to a certain percentage are allowable by the HPFB or the US’s FDA.

Many would say, without thinking of course, “just use pesticides.” But two things to consider here: bugs and insects are part of the ecosystem, whether we like or not and the other is, last time I checked, most pesticides have been linked to cancer.

Lurking in your canned tomatoes and mushrooms, tomato paste, frozen spinach, peas and bunches of other frozen vegetables are the following:

  • Fruit flies: We all get them in our kitchen if we leave fruit out too long, but did you ever imagine that along with your orange juice you could be drinking as many as five of them? Eat a small box of raisins and joining in on the party are the larvae of 70 fruit flies.
  • Mites: Often found in grains or on the stems of many plants, these tiny arachnids can cause incredible allergies, just like their cousins the dust mites cause.
  • Maggots: Evidently up to 20 maggots are deemed acceptable for every 100 grams of canned mushrooms.
  • Corn ear worms: Never heard of them? Neither had I. They use the ears of corn to make little dens for themselves. Because kernels are shaved from the ears by a machine, who is really going to take the time to carefully inspect that none of the skin or larvae end up in your frozen or canned corn? 
  • Aphids: Up to 2500 of those little bugs are considered acceptable on as little as 10 grams of your favourite veggie.

It wasn’t my intention to have you clutching your stomach but was there any real way to sugar coat this? So, do we have options? Yes, which is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and wash them very carefully before we eat them. If you have another one, I am all ears!

Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!