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Beware of beetles!
Most people don't order salads with a side of beetles, but some are getting them regardless. Consumerist recently reported that several consumers have found Iron Cross Blister Beetles in packaged organic salads. Yuck!
What do you do if a bug of any kind makes an appearance in your food?
Iron Cross Blister Beetles
Most of the time, bugs and other foreign objects in food are gross but usually harmless.
However, the Iron Cross Blister Beetle can be toxic. When stressed, the beetles release a toxin call cantharidin. While the substance isn't exactly fatal, in can cause nausea and sickness in healthy adults. Also, touching the beetles can cause skin blistering. The beetles are even used in wart removals.
Cases of blister beetles found in salad have popped up in Illinois, Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, and California.
Don't freak out, but the Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to include some bugs in their food products without repercussion. Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations Part 110.110 establishes maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in food. According to the FDA low levels of bugs and other defects pose no inherent hazard to your health.
For example, frozen broccoli can have up to 60 aphids per 100 grams of broccoli. Ground paprika can have up to 11 rodent hairs per 25 grams. Chocolate can have up 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Canned fruit juices can have up to five fly eggs per 250 ml. Macaroni and noodle products can have up to 225 insect fragments per 225 grams.
What Can You Do?
If you do find a bug, or more specifically a blister beetle, in your salad, you should take pictures and keep the product and bug, if possible, as evidence to send to the manufacturer.
Report the incident to the grocery store where you bought it and the company that produced it. Many companies will want to investigate where the bugs may have entered their production process. They should offer you a refund.
You should also notify the FDA. While some bugs in food may be acceptable, the presence of toxic bugs such as the blister beetle may be cause for concern and investigation for the FDA.