Many culinary experts say that entomophagy - eating insects - is the future of food.
What a lot of people don’t realise though, is that there’s not necessarily that much ‘future’ about it.
Take a modern fig, for example. When a female wasp pollinates it, she dies inside, then gets broken down by an enzyme in the fruit - so you’re essentially eating her carcass.
And that’s actually one of the ‘nicer’ hidden insects you could be unknowingly devouring; at least it’s part of a natural process, and the creature itself is broken down.
But what about the other cockroaches, beetles and aphids lurking on your plate?
The theory that certain red foods contain a dye made from crushed beetles is so well known, it’s almost become an urban myth - except it’s true. Carmine (E120) is made from cochineal bugs (found in central America) - though manufacturers who use it are keen to stress ‘"a number of extraction and purification processes have to be gone through to make the preparation used for food colouring”. So that’s all right then…
In the US, the percentage levels in beer don’t just point to the alcohol - up to 5% of the total weight of hops can be made up of aphids. Cheers!
They look so small and sweet, and they are. But they’re also coated with a resin secreted by a native Thai insect called Kerria lacca. You’re not always safer if you’re eating the healthy option of fruit either - that lovely waxy shiny apple? It could well be covered in the same thing.
A couple of year ago, in a radio interview, entomologist Dr Douglas Emlen revealed that most pre-ground coffee has ground cockroaches in it. It’s because they can’t be processed out of the beans, so it’s easier just to roast them and ground them up. Forget the effects of caffeine - the knowledge you’re downing a squashed beetle should be enough to wake you up in the morning.
Frozen or canned veg
A lot of tinned or frozen vegetables contain high levels of little bugs like aphids and thrips - also known as storm flies. In the US, regulations around food processing and packing allow a whopping 50 thrips in just 100g of spinach.
Everyone loves ketchup - but not everyone will be aware that fruit flies and their eggs also love ketchup. Don’t worry, though: official guidelines say ketchup can contain ‘no more than 30 fruit flies per 100grams’. Yes, ‘only’ 30.