The FDA's List of Permissible Food Defects Is Creepy-Crawly

© Yuji Sakai / Getty Images
By Gillie Houston Posted July 22, 2016

The guidelines allow for a whopping 71 insect-related exceptions in foods.

When it comes to producing food, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's handbook, some unwanted additions are to be expected. However, the scope of the "defects" the FDA allows might shock you.

Live Science took a deep dive into the FDA's Defect Levels Handbook to uncover the 179 unappetizing things that are technically allowed in certain foods. The most common form of "food defect" involves the smallest of culprits: insects. The guidelines allow for a whopping 71 insect-related exceptions in foods, including whole insects, insect parts and insect larvae in foods like canned fruit, cornmeal and chocolate. Meanwhile, many tomato products are allowed to contain fruit fly eggs; in pizza sauce, up to 30 fruit fly eggs are allowed per 100 grams.

The second most prominent defect on the FDA's list was mold, which the administration says is more "offensive to the senses" than actually dangerous, for the most part. However, they also warn that some ingredients, such as allspice, cocoa beans, and green coffee beans, can produce harmful toxins if the mold is too prevalent.

One of the most squirm-worthy defects on the list is rodent hairs—a.k.a. "rodent filth"—which are allowed in many spices, as well as your bag or popcorn or jar of peanut butter. But perhaps the most stomach churning of all is "mammalian excreta," or animal poop, which is allowed in a handful of spices.

Other common defects include parasites in some fish, rot in potato chips and canned plums, mildew in canned greens, and something ominously called "foreign matter," defined only as "objectionable matter such as sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc."

To be fair, for the most part these defects are only allowed in very small quantities, and won't do any harm to your health, but they just might be enough to make you inspect what you eat a little more closely.

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