Valentine’s Special: Chocolate Covered Ants or Ants in my Chocolate?

Posted on February 14, 2011 by


From guest blogger, Amy Charest

Several years ago I answered consumer inquiries on all types of questions related to food. My most memorable inquiry came from a mom asking me to write a letter to her seven-year-old son explaining that chocolate does not contain bugs. It seems his friend spoiled Halloween by telling him that bugs are in chocolate candy. He was refusing to eat his candy and mom wanted to help.  As a mom of two girls, I think I would have left well enough alone and not disproved the bug story. The truth is I could not write the letter she wanted.

Chocolate is an agricultural product. It does not come from a sterile, chocolate cloud in heaven (sorry to dispel the myth.)  Chocolate comes from the cacao tree, a small tropical tree, and most of the world’s chocolate is grown in Africa. It is pretty easy  to see how insects and rodents could come into contact with the cacao beans during the harvesting and drying processes. Growers and processors do everything they can to sift out any rocks or filth from the beans, but a small percentage of extra items come with the beans.

The USDA and FDA allow a small percentage of insect parts (heads, antennae, legs, eggs, maggots) and rodent hairs (rats, mice, squirrels) in food, including chocolate. Sounds disgusting, right? Yes, but it is nearly impossible to produce food without some level of contamination from the critters surrounding the food in its natural state. These minimal allowed tolerances allow farmers to reduce the amount of pesticides used in growing the crops. That is a good thing, my friends.

The good news for chocolate lovers is chocolate only contains a minimal amount of insect and rodent filth. And, you will not get sick from eating an infinitesimal amount of bugs. I for one am not worried about it, and if my husband is reading this, I like milk chocolate coconut clusters.

Amy Johnson Charest served as a Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2002 to 2006 and taught food safety from North Dakota to Wisconsin and everywhere in between. Amy survived the BSE, Chronic Wasting Disease, and monkeypox crises and has a passion for clean hands. Her specialties are industry, stakeholder and consumer education on bioterrorism best practices and basic food safety tips. Her latest challenge is maintaining a clean house with two toddlers. Amy is a work-at-home mom, freelance professional specializing in scientific writing, facilitation, project management and communications.

Posted in: Family safety