Maggots, rodent hair and worse in your food
FDA’s Defect Action Levels and what they mean to the consumer.
From my column at Communities @ Washington Times
Even though I like to think of myself as an adventurous diner, there are certain things that I refuse to eat- rat hair and cockroach feces spring to mind. No, this was not on an episode of “Bizarre Foods.” The truth is that we all may be chewing on rodent excrement and worse without even knowing it.
Certain natural contaminants in our food are to be expected. “[I]t is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects,” according to FDA. For this reason, FDA allows a certain amount of “extraneous materials” to contaminate food before it takes action. The level of contamination at which FDA will take action is referred to as a defect action level.
The FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook (Handbook), which details what kind and level of contaminants allowed, defines extraneous materials as “objectionable matter contributed by insects, rodents, and birds; decomposed material; and miscellaneous matter such as sand, soil, glass, rust, or other foreign substances.”
The Handbook lists the food, the kind of contaminant, the source of the contaminant, the maximum amount of contaminant allowed before FDA takes action, and the significance. “Significance” refers to the impact to the consumer, which can be aesthetic, tooth/mouth injury, economic adulteration, or potential health hazard. This last classification seems misleading, since aren’t defect action levels established only for “harmless” substances?
What is not misleading is the amount of disgusting stuff allowed in food. For instance, ground cinnamon may contain 11 rodent hairs per 50 grams, orange juice may contain one maggot per 250 ml, and most spices like oregano and black pepper may contain between one and three milligrams of mammalian feces per pound. Fresh water herring may contain up to 60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish, hops in your beer may contain up to 2,500 aphids per 10 grams, and dried pasta may contain up to 4.5 rodent hairs and 225 insect fragments per 225 grams- that’s one insect part per gram of pasta! For a complete list, visit the Handbook.
What are the alternatives?
There are few alternatives, however. Using more pesticides and chemicals could remove a lot of the insect, rodent, and other natural contaminants from foods. However, FDA argues that it is more reasonable to accept a certain amount of natural defects in food rather than using more pesticides and chemicals to eliminate them. According to FDA, the dangers of using more chemicals and pesticides outweigh having a bit of rat poop in your oregano. I guess I agree to an extent. While the thought of eating a maggot with my canned corn turns my stomach, I guess I’d rather eat a maggot than have the corn sprayed with (more) chemicals.
Another alternative is staying away from these foods altogether, but is that possible or even economically realistic? Sure, you could make your own peanut butter, and while you may be able to eliminate the allowable rodent hairs and grit, 5% of the whole peanuts you are using can still be insect-infested, moldy or rancid. On top of that, who has the time to make peanut butter, shell their own corn, clean mushrooms, can tomatoes, etc.?
Staying away from foods that may be infested will also make your food pretty bland, since insects love to live, poop, and die in most kinds of spices. Say goodbye to pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and every dried herb you can think of.
There are two ways of looking at this issue. On one hand, many people think that since FDA has established these standards, there is someone making sure that they are complied with. The reality is that FDA does not have the staff or budget to effectively monitor our food supply, and in practice, FDA inspects the facilities where the food is processed and packaged rather than the food itself. However, unless there is a complaint, factories and processers do not get inspected all that often. Some studies suggest that over half of all US food processing facilities have operated for five or more years without an FDA inspection.
On the other hand, according to FDA, “The defect levels do no represent an average of the defects that occur in any of the products–the averages are actually much lower.” It is, however, unclear what those averages actually are.
As things stand, there are action levels, but nobody really checks whether they are being enforced. However, FDA assures us that this is not really a problem because the average, say, can of asparagus, will have less maggots than would require FDA action. Great, I feel reassured…
- What’s for dinner? Umm, no idea really… (calibritish.wordpress.com)
- FDA Finally Implements 2011 Food Safety Standards For Farms & Manufacturers (occupycorporatism.com)
- ~Scary things contaminating our food supply~ (jericho777.wordpress.com)
I wish you were one of the authors on my news website. I do have a health and food section that gets ignored a lot… if you have time and are ever interested, let me know. Lyn.Leahz@att.net Blessings! We do get anywhere from 2000-4000 (4000 on a good day) hits a day We are only about 2 months old now. But we’re doing well. It will also drive more traffic your way. A guy I just invited as an author had hardly any hits on his website, and now his traffic has increased to 1000-2000 hits a day.
Again, let me know either way..and if you can’t, no big deal. A lot of people just don’t time..and I understand. I’ve got four kids, three blogs, two more blogs I am an author on, I’m editing three books I wrote and am having published through Thomas Nelson Publishers, all 500+ pages long…and I work! Whooh! Made me tired just thinking about it! ha ha ha Blessings your way, and thanks!
WOULD LOVE TO! Thanks so much for thinking of me!! What do I have to do? You can contact me at my email: email@example.com. Thanks so much, Lyn, I’m honored!
That is nasty. My wife ordered a pizza once at work in Chicago that had a real rat’s tail in it. It was about 6 inches long, and you could not mistake it for anything but a rat’s tail. She called everyone and their mother about that, maybe even the National Guard. Luckily the place was closed up by health inspectors, never to poison anyone again. Took her 5 years to even look at another pizza.
I agree with economically unreasonable, along with time management unreasonable as well. Sure some people can all of their own food, and even grow most if not all. My question is, do they have any free time? Or is this how they spend their free time?
EEEEWWWWW! Really? a rat tail?! What kind of pizza was it? OMG, Papi- I may rethink tonight’s dinner
Reblogged this on The Ranting Papizilla and commented:
What is in your food people? I think everyone should read this one…..
how about human genes in rice? 🙂 http://www.naturalnews.com/035745_GMO_rice_human_genes_Kansas.html
Wow! Thankfully I use whole spices. As for canned food those are rinsed to an inth of their lives! I even wash some salad veg with soapy water.
Can you believe that? Whole spices is a good idea…I think I may have to do a general clean-up of my spice cabinet… My mom says you can wash your veg. with a mix of water and white vinegar…
And you can steep fresh herbs in salted water for a while, then rinse. Gets rid of any type of egg that shouldn’t be there. Aren’t Mothers wise?
Fantastic tip! Thanks- I will def do that!
As a side note, did you know that there is cock roach feces in all chocolate? It is highest in your finer chocolates, such as Godiva, and Hershey’s has quite a bit too. I found this out from my allergy doctor some time ago. If anyone does not believe it, they can Google it. There’s more than cockroach feces. In fact, many people who have chocolate allergies are actually allergic to the cockroach feces that is in it. Now who wants a nice, big candy bar, or chocolate cake?
OMG gross! Hahahaha! can you imagine walking into a chocolate shop and saying, “i’ve got a chocolate allergy, but I’m pretty sure what I’m allergic to is the cockroach poop in it, so do you have any poop-less chocolate?” 🙂 I may put down the HUGE box of chocolates I got for Valentine’s day…
Yeah…just like that have ‘sugar free’ ‘gluten free’ ‘GMO free’…they’ll have POOP free..ha ha ha! Instead, we’ll have to ask for a microscope to examine it first! Inevitably, someone will come out claiming that cockroach poop is good for you! It protects you from cancer, and boosts your immune system..
Don’t forget all that extra protein!
Yum Yum! I’m developing a hankering for some right now! HA!
I just sent you a request. If you don’t mind, write something up about yourself and email it to me..and before you post, I’ll post a welcome intro. Please include that you write for the Washington Times, and any other pertinent information..such as your blog url…etc. When you email it to me, I will copy it and paste it, and then post as an intro. Thanks so much! Looking forward to having your expertise at the Vine!