Hey, it’s all protein. You unwittingly eat insects all the time

A friend once told me when he lived in the Middle East as a child, he would find cockroaches in his Cheerios and Frosted Flakes all the time.

He said at first, the cereal ended up immediately in the trash. After awhile, he’d just pick out the bugs and pour himself a bowl. Eventually, he just ignored the bugs. “Hey, it’s all protein,” the friend said, delivering the punch line of what was a joke disguised as a travelogue.

But the fact is, Americans eat bugs all the time. You may have just eaten some insects for lunch.

The Food & Drug Administration allows for certain levels of bugs and other contaminants in food because largely insects generally don’t pose a health a risk.

So what does the FDA allow?

Pasta can contain up to 225 insect fragments. One percent of your chocolate can contain insect parts. That cup of raisins can have up to 33 fruit fly eggs. Spinach can have up to 50 aphids per 100 grams.

And you don’t want to know about a 3.5 ounce can of mushrooms. Too late: one can is allowed to have nine maggots and 74 mites. Maggots aren’t exactly naked to the human eye, FDA.

The FDA has previously confirmed there may be up to an “average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams” of peanut butter and an “average of one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.”

You can check out the whole agency’s bug-friendly list by clicking here.

Americans are so grossed out about bugs as food, eating insects are used as crazed feats on shows like Fear Factor. In 2004, the Palm Beach Post interviewed Kelly Crosby-Heyniger of West Palm Beach who got a spot on the show by eating a 7-inch worm for her audition tape.

“I chewed him instead of swallowing, and I smiled really big for the camera to show all the dirt I had in my teeth,” she said.

For eating? “Yes.” For soup? “Yes.” For sandwich? “Yes.” (Photo by Quinn Comendant/Creative Commons)

Intrepid Palm Beach Post reporter Susan Salisbury has been all over the nexus of insects and food like DDT for years.

In 2013, she wrote about how the yogurt king Dannon was under fire by a consumer group to stop using, as Salisbury put it, “critter-based dye.” Insects are also part of lipstick, shampoo, and other products which often have a red-hued.

Salisbury also interviewed in 2015 Penn State University food science professor on how insects could be part of a nutritious diet.

Florida is known for its insects, and Floridians spend millions trying to kill many of them, whether it’s roaches, ants or termites.

Penn State University food science professor  John Coupland, suggested to start out slow and work your way up to bigger creepy-crawlies.

“I don’t think your entry-level insect needs to be a fried cockroach,” said Coupland, who is also a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists.  “Try and eat something that doesn’t look like an insect, to begin with.”

 He suggested suggests catching a cricket, cleaning it, drying it out and grinding it up.  “There is a huge range of bugs that can be eaten,” he said.

But, of course, just because bugs can be eaten doesn’t mean they should be crawling over your restaurant dish. Consumers should be very concerned with restaurants which have a cockroach problem, the Post reported in February.

Insects can be a nutritious part of your diet, Penn State professor says.

If you are bugged out about bugs as food, you are being a little American-centric.

CBS affiliate, WESH-TV, in Orlando notes that Spencer Michaels, reporting for the PBS News Hour, found that 80 percent of the world’s population eats insects as a regular part of their diet.

Scientists have identified  1,700 of the 1.1 million species of insects are edible. And yes, they contain lots of protein, hardly any fat and do not cause the types of illnesses caused by eating beef or pork.

 

CDC: Sperm donated in South Florida may contain Zika

Zika not only can be transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito, the birth-defect causing virus can be transmitted through sex, as well.

So the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have issued a warning for men in Palm Beach County and two others not to donate sperm because of the risk of spreading the disease, according to a story by The Associated Press.

The guidance applies also to Broward and Miami-Dade, the later the only place in Florida where there’s proof the virus was spread by mosquitos. Most cases diagnosed in Florida have been of those who contracted the disease by traveling to infected zones in the Caribbean or South America.

“When semen is donated it can be stored frozen for periods of time. It does not necessarily inactivate Zika, so it could be stored in tissue banks, used subsequently and people should be made aware,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNN. 

He said women “might want to use these donations from other sources.”

The CDC advisory is mostly precautionary.  There have been no cases of pregnant women being infected by Zika through a sperm donation. The risk is considered low but the consequences are severe. Infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects

“Now we understand more than we did months ago is that evidence of the Zika virus is present in semen for up to three months after a man is infected and people may not have accurately recalled potential exposure [to the virus] especially if in a local area,” said Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, who is part of the CDC Zika emergency response team and director of the CDC office of blood, organ and other tissue safety.

He was quoted in the story on the sperm alert for CNN.

The FDA, which regulates sperm donations, said the 12 donor banks in South Florida should consider the CDC’s new advice discouraging donations from men in the three South Florida counties an FDA spokeswoman said.

The last case of mosquito transmission of Zika in Florida was in December. But officials expect another outbreak this summer.  There were 221 people who contracted got Zika from mosquitoes in the continental U.S. last year, most in the Miami area. There were six cases in Texas.