Don't read this before lunch (or dinner)

Two Chef Boyardee Mini Bites canned pasta prod...I read E.J. Levy's op-ed piece in the Oregonian today just after breakfast. A propos the peanut butter salmonella investigation the article talks about an FDA pamphlet called "The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans."

Now, I remember in 7th grade a conversation I had with my sister how she learned from a friend that all canned food had some minimum amount of bugs or bits of animals accidentally included. We were talking while heating a can of Chef Boyardee Raviolis, and they still have a negative association for me. So, before you check out this pamphlet you might want to eat one of your least favorite meals.

In the introduction to the pamphlet it says "...it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects." Which even the 7th-grader in me knows is probably true when canning food. But when you process your own food, you get to chose how picky you are about the contents. Want to wash your lettuce twice? Use soap on the beets? Pick out every mushy strawberry, go ahead.

The problem is that most people depend on highly processed foods, and it's just too difficult to efficiently determine an average comfort level with what people eat. And it is a comfort level. The rest of the introduction points out "Products harmful to consumers are subject to regulatory action whether or not they exceed the action levels..."

So, by now you're asking what's the hubbub, bub? As Levy summarized the pamphlet:
Among the booklet's list of allowable defects are "insect filth," "rodent filth" (both hair and excreta pellets), "mold," "insects," "mammalian excreta," "rot," "insects and larvae" (which is to say, maggots), "insects and mites," "insects and insect eggs," "drosophila fly," "sand and grit," "parasites," "mildew" and "foreign matter" (which includes "objectionable" items like "sticks, stones, burlap bagging, cigarette butts, etc.").
Tomato juice, for example, may average "10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams -- the equivalent of a small juice glass -- or five or more fly eggs and one or more maggots." Canned mushrooms may have, among other things, an "average of 75 mites" before provoking action.
The sauerkraut on your hot dog may average up to 50 thrips. And when washing down those tiny, slender, winged bugs with a sip of beer, you might consider that just 10 grams of hops could have as many as 2,500 plant lice. Yum.
Peanut butter -- that culinary cause célèbre -- may contain approximately 145 bug parts for an 18-ounce jar, or five or more rodent hairs for that same jar, or more than 125 milligrams of grit.

Eee-yew! Well, maybe you don't like sauerkraut or peanut butter. Well, how about chocolate? Chocolate and chocolate liquour allows insect filth (60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams) and rodent filth (1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams).

And the canned raviolis I ate as a teenager? Macaroni allows one insect fragment per gram,and 4.5 rodent hairs per 225 grams. So, there's a bit of a bug in every bite! I didn't see that slogan on the label.

If you want to gross yourself out, read the whole pamphlet. Meanwhile, I'll stick with eating as much fresh food as possible, where I can spot the bugs before I consume 'em.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment