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The 10 Grossest Things That The FDA Allows In Our Food

By Tiffany Lin
Posted on 04 Sep, 2018

The 10 Grossest Things That The FDA Allows In Our Food

Hold the spice -- do you know what’s lurking in your black pepper? To keep our food production process humming along, the Food and Drug Administration allows certain imperfections to show up in our foods. They’re even listed out in the FDA's Defect Levels Handbook.

LiveScience.com recently tallied up the number of defects, and found that, out of the 179 listed defects, a whopping 71 are insect-related. In fact, insects are the most common food defect. As to what the other “defects” really are? You may be in for a stomach-churning surprise. Here are our 10 worst.


10. Sand and Grit

Have you ever chewed on a raisin and tasted something sandy? You may very well be chewing on sand and grit. According to the FDA, foods such as raisins and cumin seeds can have small levels of sand, dirt and stones that contaminate the raw agricultural product at the time of harvest.


9. Foreign Matter

Foreign matter, which includes “sticks, stones, burlap bagging and cigarette butts” according to the FDA, can show up in your black pepper, sesame seeds and mace (the spice, not the self-defense spray!).


8. Rot

Rot is “plant tissue that is visibly decomposed, usually discolored with disagreeable odors and taste,” says the FDA. And it can appear in canned beets, cherries (fresh, canned or frozen), canned plums and potato chips.


7. Mold

Mold shows up as the second most common food defect in the handbook. It can appear in apple butter, various tomato products -- including ketchup and tomato juice -- and more. It's viewed as only an aesthetic problem (defined by the FDA as “offensive to the senses.”). However, the FDA warns that mold in ingredients like allspice, ground red pepper, cocoa beans and green coffee beans can be harmful. These types of molds may contain mycotoxin, which can make a person sick.


6. Mites

These creepy-crawly arthropods can appear in berries, frozen broccoli, mushrooms (canned and dried) and other products.


5. Insects

Whole insects could appear in foods such as berries (canned and frozen), peanuts, apple butter and cornmeal. Insect fragments -- or, to put it bluntly, body parts -- are found in ground oregano, ground allspice, peanut butter, chocolate and more.


4. Larvae

Juvenile, pre-metamorphosis insects -- or larvae -- could show up in sweet canned corn, berries (canned and frozen) and peaches (canned and frozen).


3. Rodent Filth

Rodent hairs, which the FDA has dubbed “rodent filth,” received 23 mentions in the handbook. Rodent filth can appear in crushed oregano, peanut butter, ground pepper, popcorn, sage… the list goes on.


2. Parasites

Fish parasites -- also known as copepods, or “free-swimming marine crustaceans” according to the FDA -- are permitted to an extent. Whitefish can contain 50 parasitic cysts per 100 pounds of fish (whole or fillets), while bluefin tuna can contain 60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish.


1. Mammalian Excreta

Mammalian excre -- what? Our winner for grossest food defect goes to mammalian excreta, otherwise known as animal poop. It appears 15 times in the handbook and can be found in cocoa beans, whole ginger, fennel seed and more.

What Do YOU Think?

Still hungry? Does this change the way you see packaged foods? What do you think is the grossest inclusion? Tell us in the comments!

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