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Edible insects: the benefits of eating bugs

Woman eating edible insects

We usually think of bugs as nuisance pests we want to eliminate, and purposefully eating them as part of a meal is, well, a definite turn-off to most U.S. sensibilities. But gastronomically, insects can be very beneficial to us in many ways.

Eighty percent of the world’s population eats insects on purpose. They are regarded as healthy, nutritious and tasty food. Around most areas of the world, insects are a valuable and integral part of the diet.  In over 113 countries across the globe, people eat insects as a portion of their regular food source.

U.S. consumers might be interested to know that they eat insects without knowing. Our government has established maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard. Our food contains a certain amount of insects per gram. It’s estimated that each of us unknowingly eats probably about 500 grams per year!

Any processed foods you eat contain insects, because insects are here all around us, in nature and our crops. Fruits have insect damage and those fruits, such as tomato, may go into tomato soup, as long as they meet the requirements for the FDA allowance. Other processed foods like peanut butter, cereals and chocolate all have a certain amount of allowable insects in them that present no health hazard. So we’re eating them without even noticing.

But back to insects as an intentional food source. Insects are extremely sustainable to raise, requiring far fewer resources than other forms of livestock, and they produce fewer greenhouse gases. Insects reproduce at a far faster rate than livestock, requiring much less space and less money to produce.

Nutritional insects are low in calories, low in fat and high in protein, so they’re good for your waistline. Some of the insects usually eaten are grasshoppers, mealworms, wasps, termites, stink bugs, scorpions, spiders, beetles, and ants.

Although insects are edible, there are some risks to eating them. If you are allergic to shrimp, shellfish, dust or chocolate, never eat an insect for you might have the same allergic reactions. Even the non-allergic should never eat raw insects. Certain insects store compounds that make people sick; some are poisonous; others may be carcinogenic. Be cautious - don’t go out in the backyard and look for dinner just yet!

Locust Taco and Scorpion Soup
Meal Worms and Tarantulas

Food safety and commercial food establishments

Western Exterminator Company offers a variety of programs to service commercial food handling facilities to help keep these facilities pest-free. Pest management is a critical part of food safety because pests can contaminate foods with pathogenic microorganisms and make people sick.

Our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs exclude and prevent pests from entering the facility thus protecting the safety and integrity of the foods produced. Some of the programs we provide include Drain line services, bird exclusion, commodity-railcar-trailer and structural fumigation, Flying Insect Management, Food Safety Inspections, Pest Proofing, and Stored Product Pest Monitoring, as well as complete general pest solutions.

Protect your family from food-borne diseases

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. The CDC has identified reducing foodborne diseases as a winnable battle. You can’t see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. However, there are some simple and safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage that are the keys to preventing food-borne illness. In every step of food preparation in your home, follow the four Fight BAC!™ guidelines to keep food safe:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate — Don’t cross-contaminate.
  • Cook — Cook to proper temperatures.
  • Chill — Refrigerate promptly.
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