Regulating Insect Contamination III


Filbert Weevil
Photo:Ryan Kaldari

The FDA sets limits on acceptable insect damage in raw foods. Insect feeding damage on filbert nuts (aka hazelnuts) in the field can lead to discoloration and rancidity. Customers would not wish to purchase the nuts, but the damage can only be detected after the nuts are opened. It would be inconvenient for hundreds of customers to purchase rancid nuts and try to return them or do nothing and lose their money. Purchasing rancid nuts would hurt the market for nuts that are grown without pest damage. A consumer needs information for purchase decisions. One FDA role is to provide that information.

The FDA will inspect nuts to determine if they meet the standard, in this case, less than 10% damage. It is not possible nor practical to crack all the nuts.
What to do?
The FDA has a protocol of progressive subsampling. Out of a shipment, 100 nuts are taken at random and inspected. If 5 or fewer nuts have insect damage, the shipment meets the standard (less than 10%) and sampling stops. If 15 or more nuts have insect damage, the shipment does not meet the standard and is rejected. If the damage is between 6 and 14 nuts, more sampling is needed.

An additional 50 nuts are inspected. 10 or less and the shipment meets standards. 19 or more rejects the shipment, and 11-18 means 50 more nuts are to be sampled. Up to 7 rounds of additional sampling (500 nuts total) may be necessary. These procedures help insure our food quality, in spite of unpreventable insect damage.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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2 Responses to Regulating Insect Contamination III

  1. Pingback: Regulating Insect Contamination III – Entomo Planet

  2. Birds and Bees Hideout says:

    I am so glad I found this blog. I love reading up on insects. I never knew about this issue with food. I have heard about bugs in canned mushrooms, but I have always thought it was a myth. Is this harmful to our health or is it more just a food quality issue?

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