To be clear these things are perfectly safe in the allowed amounts. Gross and disgusting, but still safe for your health.
The Defect Levels Handbook is a document kept by FDA that lists exactly what types of defects food can have, but still be considered safe to eat. This handbook describes in detail the “levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans.”
It exists because it’s impossible to massively produce food without the occasional defect, but the FDA still needs to put a limit somewhere so it could guarantee that the food defects are safe and healthy.
This are the maximum defect limits set by the FDA, the point where the food becomes “adulterated.”
There is one key notice in the FDA handbook about the limits:
“The defect levels do not represent an average of the defects that occur in any of the products—the averages are actually much lower. The levels represent limits at which FDA will regard the food product ‘adulterated’; and subject to enforcement action under Section 402(a)(3) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act.”
So now, here are the Disgusting fifteen:
1. Macaroni with insect fragments
Maximum insect parts that would be tolerated by the FDA is an “average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples.”
2. Larvae in your canned or frozen spinach
The line is drawn at “2 or more 3 mm or longer larvae and/or larval fragments or spinach worms (caterpillars) whose aggregate length exceeds 12 mm are present in 24 pounds.”
3. Canned and frozen peaches containing worms and mold
Acceptable level for this is bellow if an “average of 3% or more fruit by count are wormy or moldy.”
4. Rot in your canned beets
Here the limit is when its revealed an “average of 5% or more pieces by weight with dry rot.”
5. Apple butter with bugs
The limit is an “average of 5 or more whole or equivalent insects (not counting mites, aphids, thrips, or scale insects) per 100 grams of apple butter.”
6. Maraschino or brined cherries with maggots
Limit: “an average of 5% or more pieces are rejects due to maggots.”
7. Mildew inside your canned greens
When examining canned greens, the limit is put at “average of 10% or more of leaves, by count or weight, showing mildew over 1/2” in diameter.”
8. Canned tomatoes with fly eggs and maggots
A batch of canned tomatoes officially becomes adulterated when it has an “average of 10 or more fly eggs per 500 grams OR 5 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 500 grams OR 2 or more maggots per 500 grams.”
9. Rodent hairs in cinnamon
Limit “an average of 11 or more rodent hairs per 50 grams” of cinnamon.
10. Mold in apricot, peach, and pear nectar
For nectar to be too moldy it has to have an “average mold count is 12% or more.”
11. Fig paste with insect heads
Batch of fig paste that “contains 13 or more insect heads per 100 grams of fig paste in each of 2 or more subsamples” is considered “adulterated”.
12. Parasitic cysts in your blue fish or fresh water herring
FDA doesn’t allow more than “60 parasitic cysts per 100 fish (fish averaging 1 pound or less) or 100 pounds of fish averaging over 1 pound), provided that 20% of the fish examined are infested.”
13. Frozen broccoli and mites
How many is too many? When the control finds “average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams.”
14. Sauerkraut with thrips
Too many thrips are is an average above “50 thrips per 100 grams” of sauerkraut.
15. Canned or frozen asparagus with beetle eggs
Above the limit is when “10% by count of spears or pieces are infested with 6 or more attached asparagus beetle eggs and/or sacs.”