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Does Peanut Butter Have Bugs In It? (What Are They and How Much?)

The debate between smooth or chunky peanut butter has always been the topic of choice when it comes to this delectable spread. However, what if we told you there was a far more pressing issue at hand? Would it matter to you if your peanut butter was chunky or smooth if we told you, it was actually filled with bugs? 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about your favorite spreadable, and a few other food products along the way. Warning: the results may shock you. 

What Is Peanut Butter?

Peanut butter is a paste made from ground peanuts. It is commonly used as a spread for bread. It typically contains added ingredients such as salt, emulsifiers, or sweeteners to change the taste or texture. Popular peanut butter dishes include PB&J sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and peanut butter chicken. 

There are two popular variations of peanut butter: smooth and chunky. Smooth peanut butter is a lot creamier, and is, therefore, easier to spread onto bread and use in desserts or smoothies. Chunky peanut butter contains coarsely-ground peanuts which give the butter a crunchier texture. 

The USA is a leading consumer when it comes to peanut butter, and is also one of its largest exporters. 

Does Peanut Butter Contain Bugs?

It may come as a shock to some, but peanut butter does contain bugs. The FDA makes it clear that peanut butter contains only bug parts, and an average of 30 insect fragments per 100 grams of peanut butter is permitted (according to the Defect Levels Handbook). If you consider an average 28-ounce jar, that’s around 238 insect fragments! 

On average, you eat between one and two pounds of maggots, flies, and other bugs annually. 

Why Are There Bug Fragments In Peanut Butter?

To put it simply, the FDA state that it would be impossible for natural food products to be harvested and produced without defects. With the number of bug fragments present, it would be impossible to filter them all out. These defects are naturally occurring, and happen every day. 

When Do The Bug Parts Get Into The Peanut Butter?

The FDA allows the regulated amount of insect fragments in peanut butter if they come from pre or post-harvesting procedures. Alternatively, they can also become part of the food product during peanut butter processing. This allows for small bits of the insect to fall in. 

It’s Not Just Bugs… 

Bug fragments aren’t the only shock ingredient in your favorite spreadable. Did you know peanut butter plays host to rodent hairs? Yes, you read that correctly. In 100 grams of peanut butter, the FDA will permit 1 rodent hair. That means that in the average 18-ounce jar of peanut butter (around 510 grams), there could be up to five rodent hairs. 

It’s Not Just Peanut Butter…

Many of the foods we eat every day contain bug fragments and other natural defects we’d rather not think about. Here are a few examples. 

Chocolate 

The FDA makes it clear that less than 60 insect fragments per 100 grams of chocolate are safe. On average, there are 8 insect parts in 1 chocolate bar.

Ground Cinnamon 

Ground cinnamon is permitted an average of 400 insect parts per 50 grams.

Whole Ginger 

Whole ginger is permitted up to three milligrams of mouse feces (known as mammalian excreta) per pound. 

And that’s not all! Here is a wider list of food that may contain all kinds of li’l critters. 

  • Powdered milk
  • Spices 
  • Nuts 
  • Dried fruit/raisins 
  • Cereal (and cereal products, like crackers, cake mix, rice, spaghetti, etc.)
  • Popcorn 
  • Dried beans
  • Coffee beans 
  • Tea 
  • Wheat flour 

What Bugs?

Beetles, mealworms, roaches, and maggots can be found in your everyday food products. This is particularly true of flour, chocolate, and coffee beans. 

Why This Is Not Necessarily A Bad Thing 

Bugs have been part of the human diet for as long as there have been humans. We are used to consuming them, and the FDA has created strict guidelines to ensure the food we eat is safe. 

Small insect fragments generally do not pose any significant health hazards, especially if they don’t exceed the permitted limits. 

It is important to remember that the statistics mentioned in the article do not represent a guaranteed, overall average. Your favorite peanut butter, chocolate bar, or cereal product could always contain fewer bug fragments than what is considered safe by the FDA. 

The FDA guidelines simply form a basis for determining whether a food product is of poor quality, and not suitable to serve to the public. 

Can The Number Of Bugs In Peanut Butter And Other Foods Be Reduced? 

Pesticides would reduce the number of bug fragments in peanut butter and other foods, but the use of pesticides opens up a new debate (and that’s a whole other, excuse the pun, can of worms)

Final Thoughts 

Like it or not, bug fragments, amongst other things, are present in peanut butter and many of our other food products. While this may seem unsanitary and gross, rest assured that the FDA has put regulations in place to ensure our food is perfectly safe to eat.

Some people may prefer to reduce the number of insect fragments in our food products through the use of pesticides. While this would be possible, it is not necessarily the best answer, and it opens up an entirely new question about food and food regulations. 

Bugs have always been a part of the human diet. We are used to eating them, and in such tiny fragments, they are not harmful to consume. Not to mention, they’re a great source of protein! 

So, feel free to enjoy all your favorite peanut butter products despite this newfound knowledge – there is nothing to be concerned about where insect fragments are involved!

Jess Smith
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