My Mom had been reading the Orlando Sentinel and asked me if I knew that the U.S. Government allows 745 insect fragments and 27 rodent hairs per 24oz can of cornmeal. "Sure," I said. "I've known about standards like that ever since reading a book called Bugs in the Peanut Butter in high school." The manufacture of that sticky food is apparently impossible to achieve without allowing a small percentage of gnats to be included in the jar. "It would be a good topic for your blog," said Mom. Right she was (and thanks for the idea)!
Ingesting insect material unknowingly in our food may cause stomach disorders and affect allergies, but in general it is safe, and considered necessary to avoid the use of too many pesticides, which would have worse consequences. Allowable defects include insects and their eggs and larvae, rodent filth (hair and excreta), mammalian excreta, mold and mildew, rot, sand and grit, and foreign matter (sticks, stones, burlap bagging, and cigarette butts).
Here is a sampling of the levels of "natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use" at which action needs to be taken, as established by the FDA:
Asparagus (canned or frozen) - A total of 6 or more attached asparagus beetle eggs and/or sacs per 10% by count of spears or pieces, an average of 40 or more thrips per 100 grams, or a quantity of insects or insect parts of 3mm totaling an average aggregate length of 7mm or longer per 100 gramsAnd here is a concluding quote from the New York Times to whet your appetite: "[Y]ou’re probably ingesting one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites each year without knowing it, a quantity of insects that clearly does not cut the mustard, even as insects may well be in the mustard."
Broccoli (frozen) - Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams
Cherry jam - Average mold count of 30% or more
Chocolate - Average of 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams or an average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams
Coffee beans (green) - Average 10% or more by count are insect-infested or insect-damaged or an average of 10% or more beans by count are moldy
Macaroni - Average of 225 insect fragments or more or an average of 4.5 rodent hairs or more per 225 grams
Mushrooms (canned) - Average of 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams, an average of 5 or more maggots 2mm or longer per 100 grams, or an average of 75 mites per 100 grams
Peanut butter - Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams, an average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams, or gritty taste and water insoluble inorganic residue of more than 25mg per 100 grams
Popcorn - 1 or more rodent excreta pellets in 1 or more subsamples, 2 or more rodent hairs per pound, or 20 or more gnawed grains per pound
Potato chips - Average of 6% or more pieces by weight contain rot
Tomatoes (canned) - Average of 10 or more fly eggs per 500 grams, 5 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 500 grams, 0r 2 or more maggots per 500 grams