20th Century Fox’s November 18th prime time TV show Bones features a huge chocolate bar. Bones’ squints say FDA allows rodent hair in chocolate. It’s true.
I’m a chocolate lover first. Health writer second, Bones’ addict third.
When Dr. Jack Hodgins of Fox’s series Bones proclaims in the November 18, 2010 episode that ant torsos, spider legs and rodent hairs, to a certain extent per weight, are allowed in chocolate, three of my stronger character traits took offense. “This is TV, not reality,” … “I have to know the truth,” … “But, milk chocolate is my favorite!” No going back, this girl had to find out.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Knowing better than to trust every bit of potential misinformation, courtesy of the Internet, the quest for the raw truth led straight to the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”).
Guess what? The FDA has such a thing, called the “Defect Levels Handbook: The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans.” This lovely little handbook describes allowable ingredients in foods, foods that offend human sensibilties (i.e., aesthetically offensive), but which the FDA has determined pose no threat to human health.
Spicing up snacks, fruits and vegetables with insect parts, rodent hairs, worms, excreta and more
In defense of the FDA, the Defect Levels Handbook sets forth strict criteria as to the amounts of the offensive materials allowed in each of the foods listed. It’s hard to defend the FDA given the likes of allowable ingredients, which include such delicacies as insect filth, insect parts, rodent filth, rodent hairs, mites, aphids, larvae, larval fragments, worms, and rodent excreta.
Peanut butter and chocolate: Quite the combo
This list is not complete, but probably includes foods you eat. Here we go, in alphabetical order:
Broccoli (frozen) may contain insects and mites – up to 60 or more aphids and/or mites per 100 grams before FDA must take action.
Brussel sprouts (frozen) are another source of insect protein, and can average 30 or more aphids per 100 grams.
Chocolate – Sorry, folks, but this may contain up to 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Wait, there’s more! The FDA figures that one rodent hair per 100 grams of chocolate doesn’t upset the apple cart. No mention whether these are differentiated for dark or milk chocolate.
Cinnamon, anyone? Ground cinnamon may contain up to 400 insect fragments per 50 grams and up to 11 rodent hairs per 50 grams. Seems the FDA is a little more generous when it comes to amounts of insect filth in ground cinnamon than for chocolate. Will try to overlook this while enjoying the upcoming holiday gingerbread men.
Citrus Fruit Juices (canned)? Hard to believe, but insects and insect eggs (including fly eggs and maggots) are allowed, with specified amounts not to exceed every 250 milliliters.
Corn husks (for tamales) can contain up to 5% of insects by weight. Anyone whose made tamales from scratch probably can verify this. The numerous insects are quite visible, definitely aesthetically offensive, and frankly, the general practice is to thoroughly wash the husks to rid them of insects before preparing delicious tamales.
Peaches (canned or frozen) can contain worms or mold, up to 3% in fruit by count. Add to that, canned peaches may include limited amounts of larvae and/or larval fragments as measured in length (millimeters).
Peanut butter, plain and simple, may contain 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams and one rodent hair per 100 grams. The average 18 ounce jar of peanut butter equals 510 grams (e.g., about 150 insect fragments and five rodent hairs).
Popcorn may contain rodent excreta pellets, rodent hairs or “gnawed” grains in “subsamples.”
Spinach (canned or frozen) may contain 50 aphids, thrips or mites per 100 grams, or two larvae, larval fragments or spinach worms (caterpillars) – as measured by length per weight. For example, up to 12 millimeters (aggregate length) of caterpillars are allowed in 24 pounds of canned or frozen spinach.
Wheat flour may contain 75 insect fragments and 1 rodent hair in every 50 grams.