Beetle Juice: Meet Your Baby's Meal!

Amy Kuras
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warehouse beetleAs everyone knows by now, Abbot, maker of Similac baby formula, recalled millions of cans of powdered formula thanks to beetle contamination at one plant in southwestern Michigan. Less than 1 percent of the product at the plant was found to be contaminated, but Abbott opted to recall certain types of formula in case contaminated products made it out to store shelves.

But just who is this beetle that's causing all this chaos and panic? What makes him tick? Where does he hang out?

Warehouses, apparently; the news stories say that a "common warehouse beetle" was the culprit. They are small, oval, and brownish-black with stripelike white or light brown hairs on their backs. Larvae are orange-brown and look hairy (and super-creepy crawly, brrr).

They feed on stored products like grain, seeds, or dried milk, hence the attraction to the Similac plant. They'll eat just about anything, though, it appears. The problem (other than the idea that your baby is drinking beetle parts) is that babies could experience gastrointestinal problems and refuse to eat.

Of course, we eat beetles all the time; a different type of beetle is used to make a red food coloring called carmine, which colors things like drinks, pink and purple candies, or yogurt. And confectioner's glaze, which coats all kinds of candies including Junior Mints, is refined from the secretions of the lac beetle.

Why stop there? Let's face it, we eat all kinds of bugs all the time, namely the kind that infests cereals, grains, and dried goods used for baking once we bring them home to the store and put them in our cupboard. Sometimes the larvae is already in them; other times new bugs will take up residence. Indian meal moths lay eggs in flour -- you've probably served up a birthday cupcake or two in your time containing at least a few of these. Sawtooth grain beetles are like magnets to that flour or sugar spilled in your cupboards, but they also love nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and candy.

Hopefully this makes you feel a little better about the possibility that your baby drank beetle juice. At least she's not alone.

Does the prospect of eating bugs in food totally gross you out?


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