If you’re reading this you might have heard the rumors and wanted to research whether they are really true: Are there bugs in peanut butter? This post dives into the topic and separates myth from facts.
Peanut butter reminds a lot of people of their childhood. It’s one of the favorite foods among Americans. You can use it with almost anything. It’s great with a smoothie and makes a delicious cookie. And how about the famous peanut butter jelly sandwich? Delicious.
But you have to brace yourself because there is something else in peanut butter that most people aren’t aware of. Creepy little crawlies. The rumors are indeed true. But you know what’s even more shocking? Bugs are actually allowed by the official U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be in your food.
And Americans eat bugs every day when they consume peanut butter as part of a sandwich, deserts or in any other form. But how is this possible? This is an interesting and controversial topic.
Why Does the FDA Allow Bugs in Food?
If you think your mind was blown before, well it’s going to be blown even more because according to the FDA it is completely legal for peanut butter to include 30 or more (more?) insect parts, or “insect filth,” per 100 grams. On average, a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter contains approximately 340 grams, that’s over 100 bugs per jar.
So now that you know the answer to the question “Are there bugs in peanut butter” is a resounding “yes”, let’s dig a bit deeper and explore why the FDA allows bugs in food in the first place.
According to the FDA, a product needs to reach “Food Defect Action Levels” for it to be considered unsafe. This means, bugs, or “foreign matter” is allowed in food as long as these levels aren’t high enough to be considered hazardous.
Humans have eaten insects for as long as they have both existed, and peanut butter is not the only item that contains your creepy crawlies. That’s right, “foreign matter” is actually everywhere in our food. It would seem that we are constantly munching on “insect filth.”
Are there bugs in peanut butter? You bet. But let’s take a look at some other foods that might contain uninvited guests.
Are There Bugs In Food? The Shocking Amount Of Bugs Hidden In Your Favorite Food
We’ll start with your breakfast. Are you a coffee drinker? The FDA allows coffee beans to have an average of 10 milligrams or more of animal poop per pound of beans.
As much as 4 percent to 6 percent of coffee beans are allowed to be insect infected. Even the black pepper you sprinkle on top of your eggs to give it the spice that you love has as much as 40 insect bits per teaspoon. Yummy!
A box of spaghetti can have 450 insect parts and nine rodent hairs in every 16 ounces of spaghetti. Tomato sauce, while not as contaminated as some other food, is still allowed to have up to two maggots in a 16 pound can.
Adding sweet corn to spice up your sauce? It is allowed to have two or more larvae of the corn earworm, larvae fragments and even its discarded skin as it grows.
And the next time you bite into a warm cinnamon raisin cupcake, you might want to remember that every 8 ounces of raisins might have 20 or more whole insects and 35 fruit fly eggs. Going to a bar with friends?
Be aware that you might be ingesting 5 or more fruit flies per cup (250 ml) of canned fruit juice. Even the chocolate in your favorite chocolate bar averages up to 60 insect bits per 100 grams.
You came here asking: Are there bugs in peanut butter? And you discovered that there’s bugs in most of your favorite foods. But the good news is that all of this might sound a lot worse than it is.
Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Bugs In Peanut Butter
Thinking about how many bugs are in your food will drive you nuts. The truth is, while these make it sound like we’re eating bugs all day, the percentage of “foreign matter” in our food is comparably low.
It’s actually not possible to produce food without any “insect filth”. After all, our foods come from nature. Our planet is a living and breathing organism and insects and bugs are part of that. The percentage of foreign matter is so small that you never actually see or notice it.
The truth is, all surfaces you touch, every time you open your mouth, bacteria, viruses and tiny organisms surround you and enter your body. These are microscopic, not visible to the eye and not harmful. In fact, they’re even healthy.
You need to be exposed to a certain level of bacteria to stay healthy. If you live a completely sterile life, your immune system could break down. There are even theories linking multiple sclerosis, a serious illness, to lack of exposure to dirt and bacteria.
Plus your gut is full of healthy bacteria. As human beings, our organisms need a certain level of exposure. And eating some small, non-visible traces of bugs as part of your peanut butter isn’t that bad either.
At least there’s some extra protein in bugs.
Are There Bugs In Almond Butter?
Sorry to break it, but yes. Almond butter, just like peanut butter, might have trace parts of insects according to the FDA.
In fact, no spread or butter is immune to having a small level of contamination in the form of foreign matter. There might even be cockroaches in peanut butter and almond butter.
Any insects and animals that hang out at factories and production sites, including cockroaches, might get into contact with food before it’s processed and delivered to your favorite grocery store.
We’re talking about traces that aren’t visible to the eye. The FDA regulates how much of these traces are allowed to be in peanut butter, almond butter and other spreads. And there are guidelines and quality control standards in place to ensure these traces remain small.
If you’re sick to your stomach right now, take a deep breath and relax.
While you’re sleeping at night, small creatures might actually crawl into your open mouse or nostrils. These are so small you can’t even see them or notice them.
So you have to put all of this into perspective.
Again: We need this exposure to maintain healthy and strong immune systems.
If you were to live in a completely sterile world, you would probably break down, get sick and die.
Does Peanut Butter Without Bugs Even Exist?
Are there bugs in all peanut butter? Unfortunately, it’s physically impossible to produce peanut butter and other foods without any traces of bugs at all.
It’s not about trying to reach 0% of foreign matter, since that’s an unattainable standard. You’d have to stop eating most foods which is obviously not feasible.
Instead of worrying about whether there are bugs in peanut butter, you should enjoy your peanut butter. Buy from a high-quality brand, forget about this article and don’t obsess over traces of insects in your food.
In fact, thinking too much about contamination and cleanliness can lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or be a sign of it. Thinking about, worrying, ruminating and obsessing over insect parts in food isn’t good for your mental health.
- Thinking about bugs in peanut butter can screw with your head
- Some exposure to bacteria, viruses, microbes, dirt and bugs is good for your immune system
This means you should sit back, stop thinking about it and enjoy your favorite peanut butter, almond butter, coffee and that delicious cinnamon raisin cupcake.
Yes, Peanut Butter Has Bugs But It’s Not As Bad As You Think
Are there bugs in peanut butter? Yes, but as you saw this shouldn’t be a concern or cause excessive worry.
The FDA and other countries’ health officials have strict guidelines in place. Since it’s impossible to prevent naturally occurring food defects, it’s all about reducing them to a minimum.
You might be wondering how bugs are even able to enter your peanut butter? Some people might be worried that peanut butter manufacturers are intentionally adding bugs to their peanut butter to somehow trick consumers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Bugs may enter peanut butter either during pre or post-harvesting procedures, or also during food processing itself. So the FDA and other health bodies established standards that are aimed to keep food defects to a bare minimum.
How Are Bug Parts In Peanut Butter Even Measured If They’re Invisible?
Food manufactures are required to have quality assurance employees, who take samples of the finished and packaged product. They check the final product to make sure that there’s nothing in it that’s against the rules.
They might do it manually. After a week of production, they might take out some bags of coffee beans, peanuts or cacao, shake the bags out and make sure that the bug level is below the legal threshold.
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In case there are a lot of insects in a particular bag, the food is taken and sent to a process called “rework.” Let’s say a bag of fresh cranberries cannot be sold because the insect limit is above the threshold. The cranberries might be sent to a canning operation where they are boiled. The insects are skimmed right off the top, and the remaining cranberries are put into a can.
The honest truth is that it’s really not as bad as it seems. The FDA assures that the insects found in peanut butter and other foods are microscopic and do not pose any serious health hazards. The guidelines put in place by the FDA and other organizations ensures that the country’s food supply stays safe.
Summary: Don’t Drive Yourself Nuts
Yes, insects in your peanut butter might sound yucky. But they do not cause any foodborne illnesses or pose a health hazard.
What might pose more of a threat are stones, glass, metal or plastic parts that can come in contact with food either when it’s harvested or during production. To prevent this, food is routinely subjected to metal detectors and x-rays.
The main causes of food borne illnesses are completely unrelated.
Eating raw or expired food, undercooking food, not washing food properly and having poor hygiene is a much bigger problem. Cross-contamination from raw food and undercooking is responsible for 48 million cases of food borne illnesses every year.
Your fear of bugs in your peanut butter and other foods is unwarranted and unnecessary. So cheer up, don’t let this information stop you from eating the foods you love and while you’re at it, enjoy the extra protein.