The Condiment In Your Refrigerator That Might Contain Insect Eggs

By now, you've probably heard all the buzz — pun intended — about insects being a "superfood." After all the food shortages and supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — as well as ongoing outbreaks of avian flu that have affected commercially raised chickens and turkeys — more and more sources have been reporting on the possible benefits of diversifying our diets to include more healthy, safe-to-eat insects. The BBC, for example, detailed how insects such as crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers — which, incidentally, are traditionally consumed by many cultures around the world — are packed full of protein and could help reduce human dependence on meat consumption.

Feeling a little squeamish? You're not alone. That same article reported that, in spite of all the things bugs have going for them, only 10% of Europeans surveyed would be willing to replace meat with insects. So how would you feel about eating insect eggs? If the idea of that, too, makes you feel a bit uneasy, this factoid might make you feel even worse: You're probably already eating them, depending on which condiments you keep on hand.

Ketchup and other foods are legally permitted to contain insect eggs

Did you know that everyday condiments and foods such as canned corn, peanut butter, and curry powder not only commonly contain insect eggs and insect parts — but that it's A-OK with the government? According to North Carolina State University's Department of Entomology (that's bug studies, folks), it's not possible to exclude all insects from the food supply. Therefore, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) instead places limits on how many insect eggs or insect parts a food can legally contain and still be sold in stores.

Canned corn? It's allowed to have two insect eggs per 100 grams. Peanut butter? 50 insect fragments per 100 grams. And ketchup — that glossy, tomato-based condiment we all love — takes the cake, with 30 fruit fly eggs allowed per 100 grams.

So what's with ketchup and fruit flies? As CBS News explains, the insects really love tomato-based items and will lay their eggs in them, too. Indeed, as cited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), canned tomatoes are allowed to contain 10 or more fruit fly eggs per 500 grams, and tomato puree is allowed to contain ​​20 or more fruit fly eggs per 100 grams. Cooking up some canned, jarred, or bottled tomatoes tonight? You might be getting an extra dose of protein in every bite.