8 Gross Things the Government Allows in Your Food

No matter how unhealthy or disgusting it may seem, it’s pretty much inevitable that there’s some sort of ick-producing thing in the food we eat. It’s true even for food grown in your own backyard — produce from your garden often comes with a healthy dose of dirt and bugs. But on an industrial scale? Well, the same holds true there: dirt, grime, bugs, mold, parasites — you name it. Think about it: it’s pretty much impossible to grow food that is totally, 100% free of any foreign matter. But that doesn’t get food producers off the hook — the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does, in fact, regulate the amount of stuff that is allowed in certain foods.

But the question you have to ask yourself is, if your homegrown spinach can be covered in gross stuff, is it really all that shocking that commercially-grown spinach would, too? As disgusting as it seems, is it really as bad? The FDA itself actually makes the all-too-important point that these levels are not, well, normal — they just represent the absolute highest amount of foreign matter allowed. The FDA assures us in the introduction to its defect guide: “The defect levels do not represent an average of the defects that occur in any of the products–the averages are actually much lower.”

So, sure, it’s not totally likely that most of the food you eat is crawling with bugs and covered in dirt, and, the FDA also points out, these concerns are mostly aesthetic, not health-related. So it might seem absolutely disgusting that there are so many creepy-crawlies in the foods we eat, but it’s not nearly as dangerous as it sounds.

Nevertheless, if you’re yearning to be grossed out, read on for some of the least-appetizing things the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows in our food system. (Just don’t read this list before lunch.)

1. Mold in Cranberry Sauce.

This Thanksgiving staple can contain an average 14% mold count in each can.

2. Bugs in Frozen Broccoli

Teeny-tiny pests like thrips, aphids and mites can wreak havoc in both backyard gardens and commercially-grown crops. Frozen broccoli is allowed to contain as many as 59 of these bugs per 100 grams of florets.

3. Rodent Hair in Flour.

Find any more than 1 rodent hair per 50 grams of flour and you’re in trouble. And, yep, that means that it’s perfectly okay for a one pound bag of flour to contain 8 rodent hairs.

4. Maggots in Canned Mushrooms.

Canned mushrooms can contain 19 maggots per 100 grams after they’ve been drained and will still fall within the FDA’s regulations.

5. Pits in Pitted Olives.

Oh, that terrible feeling when you bite into an olive that’s supposed to be pitted and you find, well, a pit. The FDA allows a little more than 1% of pitted olives to contain whole pits or pit fragments.

6. Fly Eggs in Canned Citrus Juice.

Nope, that ain’t pulp — canned citrus can contain up to 4 fly eggs per 250 ml. So, yep, that means that, for every gallon of canned citrus juice, there can be up to 15 fly eggs.

7. Sand/Grit in Raisins.

Sand and whatever the heck the FDA means by the term “grit” can be present in raisins at a rate of up to 40 mgs per 100 grams.

8. Parasitic Cysts in Blue Fin/Freshwater Herring.

Phew! Not every single one of these fish can contain parasitic cysts — just 59% of the catch! What a relief!

Sufficiently grossed out? If you want a little more control over what gets left on your food, try growing your own. Here’s a list of easy vegetables and herbs you can start growing indoors.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

BJ Moore
B J M3 years ago

Instead of ragging on the government people nbeed to realize that government regulations must reflect the public that participates in the regulatory process. When agribusiness is all over the FDA like a cheap suit, and continues to be successful with its $$ in making sure the FDA's power is limited we end up with regulations that suit the business side more than the consumer.

Anne P.
Anne P3 years ago

Not surprised about the bugs in broccoli. When I buy fresh organic broccoli, I check the florets carefully as they are sometimes infested with tiny insects.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore3 years ago

Not surprised.

Rebekka Helgesen Hass
Rebekka Hass3 years ago

very gross but thank you for sharing

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

With everyone's push to NOT use wayfarin for poisoning rodents, or glue traps, you're almost guaranteed there will be more mouse droppings, hairs, etc in anything with wheat. Anyone who has lived on a farm knows how much they love the silo!

Mary S.
Mary-Joyce S3 years ago

gross but interesting

kiran s.
kiran s3 years ago


Sabrina M.
Sabrina m3 years ago


Christel K.
Christel K3 years ago

"Try growing your own food" - Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to do that with olives, raisins, flour, herring etc., especially living in Canada where it's 6 amonths of the year freezing cold?