Why worry if you accidentally swallow an insect?

It happens every day. You’re out for a run or biking on the farmland, doing an evening round the fence run in campus and, whoosh, an insect lands in your mouth. The ick factor is high, but can it cause any real harm? Well…swallowing an insect is largely harmless. For real!

Most people get bit or stung by something, and many of

starfried-cricks
Star fried crickets

us even eat a few critters. I am sure I’ve swallowed my fair share of insects. I know you are thinking its gross but it’s just a fact of life. The good thing with me is that I have intentionally swallowed quite a handful too. For the most part, eating a bug isn’t cause for worry. In general, your body will digest arthropods, which include arachnids like spiders, mites and ticks, and insects such as gnats, flies, mosquitoes, fleas and bedbugs, just like any other food. This means that eating a bug now and then probably won’t be a problem for most.

I am one of few who believe that swallowing an occasional live bug adds to their protein, vitamin and minerals intake. For those populations around the world who regularly ingest

marinatec-cricket_watermarked2
Marinated crickets garnished with vegetables of the season

beetles, termites, ants, spiders and other arthropods, eating bugs can be an important source of these essential nutrients. But, it’s a good idea to cook the bugs before eating them in order to generally kill any harmful bacteria and parasites. If you’re going to get serious about eating insects like me, cook it!

I have this amazing colleague at Edible Insects Gastronomy Lab at JKUAT who is a gastronomist. Anything she touches turns to a delicious meal. She is a strong believer in the adage that a delicious meal is only limited by the chefs imagination. Her hands are like this magic wand that turns the most unfoody looking ingredient to a mouth watering delicacy. She has turned insects into dishes out of this world. If foods wear bow ties, hers would wear a red one! I think she can even cook stones or those mean looking railway steels lying idle with envy all over their face as they watch the new standard gauge railway snaking from Mombasa to Nairobi. I think I want to be a railway line in the after life. To just sit there unmoved by the years of merciless elements of weather and human activity!…mmmh

I digressed. Going back to the story…the bottom line is, avoid swallowing uncooked bugs but if you do, the enzymes and acids in your gut will do justice to it!

Happy 2017 bug lovers!

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7 thoughts on “Why worry if you accidentally swallow an insect?

  1. I think my next destination is your lab,luckily am bigger than Safari ant,so lucky that no one’s fingers can turn me into a cookie 😂

  2. KIPKOECH SOLOMON
    AG242-0290/2013
    Of course, some insects are poisonous. They key thing is to know what you are eating, and where it come from. Essentially, any food has a variety of risks associated with it. With insects, the risks are estimated to be relatively small, and easily controlled. Therefore, edible insects are eco-friendly to ingest because our bodies can digest. Because insects emit far fewer greenhouse gases than livestock and consume way less water, they have a comparative tiny ecological footprint, and there’re thought to thrive on basically anything, even organic waste. That last point sums up the main ecological appeal of eating insects. In fact, some two billion people across the globe eat a wide variety of insects regularly. They are a fantastic source of protein and don’t require intensive resources to produce; and they have little environmental impact, unlike the livestock that we are so reliant on here. And a few things to consider. Cooking will improve flavor, texture and kill parasites. Wings and legs do not contained much protein, remove them if they make you want to gag. Heads, too. Take care in eating already-dead insects, as they may have been killed by pesticides. And importantly, if you want to forage for wild insects, seek out a good guidebook so that you are sure to get the best from your efforts. Be brave, and bon appetite. Recent assessments of the potential of large-scale entomophily have led some experts to suggest entomophily as a potential alternative protein source to animal livestock, citing possible benefits including greater efficiency, lower resource use, increased food security, and environmental and economic sustainability. Use of insects as an ingredient in traditional foodstuffs in places such as Mexico has been on a largely use enough scale to cause their populations to decline. Eating insects has not been adopted in Kenya, despite attempts to introduce insects based food in Kenyan market. A few companies have introduced products made using insects, whole or processed into food products. Insects as food and feed emerge as an especially relevant issue in the twenty –first century due to the rising cost of animal protein, food and feed insecurity, environmental pressures, population growth and increasing demand for protein among the middle classes. Edible insects can provide economic, nutritional, and ecological advantages to the indigenous population that commonly raise them. However, there is very little knowledge or appreciation of the potential for managing and harvesting insects sustainably. Adapting food technology and safety standards to insect-based foods would enhance these prospects by providing a clear legal foundation for insect-based foods. The methods of matter assimilation and nutrient transport used by insects make insects cultivation more efficient method of converting plant material into plant biomass than rearing traditional livestock. In general, many insects are herbivorous and less problematic than omnivores. Cooking is advisable in ideal circumstances since parasites of concern may be present. The disadvantages of utilization of insect is that spore forming bacteria can spoil forming bacteria can spoil both raw and cooked insects protein, threatening to cause food poisoning.

  3. AARON KIPKIRUI SANG
    AG242-0368/2014
    Well if it doesn’t kill you it makes you strong, entomophagy has long made sense in Africa it has become part and parcel for most indigenous communities. I do concur with Dr. Kinyuru in sense that we have once or twice swallowed these innocent insects intentionally or unintentionally. Yes most have turned out to be good for human health, however the ‘yuck factor’ makes most people hate eating insects. This changes attitude of one towards this ironically nasty food. The health beneficial aspects of insects eating makes me totally agree with this blog, most recently there have been a lot of hypes around eating insects as compared to other foods. Its healthy and sustainable alternative source of food to supplement conventional protein sources. Consuming this bug-based food is more ecofriendly as compared to food from livestock. This are small creatures which are more efficient in converting feed into edible body mass unlike big animals as proven by many food scientists. Moreover, it has been proven that an insect like a cricket requires about 2 kilos of feed to produce a kilo of meat which 80% is consumed whereas a bigger animal requires approx. 8kg to produce same amount of meat and only 40% consumed. There is a well-balanced nutritive components unlike in other foods. To make these insects or bug-based food more attractive and pleasing to consume, on my point of view, it should be mixed with common foods as their ratios increase inversely. Then at the end of the day, people will be munching insects like no one business. If we had many guys like the specialists at the Gastronomy lab JKUAT, insects would be selling like hot cakes sooner than later. Of course yes insects can complement meat as food security measure. Nowadays animal population is decreasing due to many unavoidable circumstances and factors. Here sets in diseases and parasites, harsh climate is seriously working on animal sub sector, as well as reducing sizes of farms. All these makes production of meat from big animals, uneconomical and tedious. Thus growing or production of insects would much be better since they just require small space, less feeds to produce maximum. It is only a matter of time then guys will be accustomed to bug-based foods as in the case of meat from big animals. Crickets farming can be improved in many ways to boost food security; these include; Educating farmers on the importance of the ‘minilivestock’ as source of nutrients and how to produce them within short time thus faster earnings unlike in large animals. Providing incentives and input to willing farmers will attract a huge numbers of producers. Cricket flour should be made available at market where consumer can assess with ease, Production should be of cheap labor which will not require full technology platform which is expensive Teaching people on how cricket food is free from diseases and chemical residues like in food from animals. Advertising widely in different platforms the nutritive importance of cricket flour food and beneficial health effects. Finally animal professionals should be the ambassadors this of bug-based food.

  4. KOSGEI K FELIX
    AG242-0350/2014
    The fact of eating insects is no longer a tale, insects like any other food acts as a nutritious source of essential nutrients that humans require in their diet. This fact comes with great relieve bearing in mind the drastic change of climate that have led to decrease food production. Accidental swallowing of insect should not worry humans but should give them courage to embrace the culture of using insects as sources of food.
    Edible insects according to FAO (2003) contain high quality vitamins, proteins amino acids compared to more of African food stuff such as chicken, beef etc. Their high food conversion rates is enough reason to encourage different countries to engage in insect farming to curb food insecurity. Insects such as crickets take less feed and provides same amount of proteins to that of other food animals. Therefore, insects if adopted well are the potential source of essential nutrients which humans can enjoy through direct consumption of insects or indirectly in recomposed foods.
    Orthoptera such as locusts, various species of grasshoppers and crickets can be kept in mini-livestock program that needs to be adopted in Kenya to encourage keeping of this insects to safeguard the country in terms of food security. Termites and crickets in Kenya will once become special delicacy. In fact this approach will be of importance in curbing child malnutrition in areas that face draught. Instead of struggling in cultivation of crops and other food products which require high inputs due to varying weather conditions, desert insects such as desert grasshoppers can be cultivated since that thrive well. This not only improve the standards but also its affordable and safe food with adequate nutrient density.
    Consumer acceptances is something that need to be invested to reduce reluctance and ignorance. There is a need of developing strategies to overcome some of the psychological and cultural barriers to entomology that undermines the utilization of insects as alternative nutrient source. That I can advise the investors to take include ensuring familiarity of the products is increased this is through provision of consumers with adequate information concerning insects as alternative source of food. This can be done through public educations, relies etc. making edible insects available and providing knowledge on how to prepare the insects can also be used to encourage its adoption and insect farms. The products manufactured having incorporation of insects should not only be made locally available but also be manufactured to taste good and appealing to eat.
    It is quite clear that to gain consumer acceptance on insect consumption various aspects need to be made clear. The mental linking of insects with the decaying matter need resolved through adoption of mini-farming where insects are kept and feed like any other conventional livestock. Product development of insects as food should take into account cultural and individual expectations about species that are used as food and the steps that are undertaken in the product preparation. Therefore as much as the need to change the dietary system is pushed on, need of gastronomy research should be done.

  5. NAME: JEMUTAI KIPRONOH SHARON
    REG NO: AG242-0342/2014

    This is one of the most incredible yet entertaining blogs I’ve read so far this year. Not only is it relatable but it’s also one of those articles you read and you find yourself critically thinking about things you’ve never thought about, and if you did, you’ve never put any serious thought to it. When I hear about bugs and mouth and eating all at the same time, in the same sentence, all I can think about, at first is ew! Definitely not happening! I’m not a huge fan of bugs and if I think about all the times my mouth has come into contact with a bug trying to force its way into my gut, I might just end up writing a whole book of my encounters with bugs. Most times they have accidentally found their way into my oesophagus holding me in a choke hold, probably mid laughter; other times I have actually eaten them intentionally.
    Growing up, we’d harvest these flying termites (kumbekumbe) during the rainy season. Frying them over low heat and eating them as an accompaniment to some nice ugali….just yummy! When I think back to that point in time and how excited I would get about eating them and I think about myself right now, I very much doubt I’d be as enthusiastic as then. Well unless I get to visit the Edible Insects Gastronomy Lab and have the chef wow me. The consumption of insects, preferably cooked, in my opinion is a really good source of minerals and proteins. However this, insect consumption as a delicacy, is hindered by the fact that we have been raised in a society that has taught us that what you don’t know is bad for you. We are therefore barred from deviating from the conventional sources of food because we are afraid of what the society or how people in the society will think of us and treat us.
    If anyone was to ask me the next time I’ve swallowed a bug if I’m worried, I’d tell them no, because let’s admit it to ourselves, we have had our fair share of weevils in the food in high school, and look at us ? Some of us have grey hair on our heads. Clearly nothing happens all thanks to our gut. In this time and era where there are a lot of fast changing climatic conditions causing natural calamities like drought, our food sources should also be rapidly expanding. This is where insects and bugs come in, our only problem being that we are limited by our minds, inducing our gag reflexes at the very thought of it.
    Insects might just be what starving nations need to feed their people. They have adequate proteins, essential nutrients and minerals therefore complementing meat. It is important however to provide mass education to the public on insect consumption and farming techniques. This will improve even the small scale insect farms, which would also benefit from the farmers having workshops with insect farmers from other countries.
    I think this is the next big thing, and people should definitely embrace it!

  6. Why worry!!
    Of course I need to worry when accidentally swallow an insect, since it’s not one of those common dishes am used to placing on my table, the first worry of concern when accidentally swallow an insect is the personal hygienic purposes, Definitely you will have to ask yourself why this stray insect only choose to land deep in to my mouth?, does it mean I have a smelly mouth or any other unpleasant smell!!… Anyway let’s put that aside since this is universal situation regardless of personal hygiene. Another source of concern when accidentally swallowed an insect is which kind of insect have you swallowed? Can it cause any mechanical or chemical damage to your gut and digestive viscera organs through bites, stings or either production of poisonous and irritating chemicals? The third source of worry is the hygienic properties of the insect swallowed, is it the carrier of harmful pathogenic organism or compounds which might progressively lead to infection, can it interfere with the normal digestion process in your alimentary canal? Or can it cause abnormal function of your gut? Hygienic properties of insect is influenced by the stage of cycle of the insect development, particular insect species since various insects prefers various environments for their growth, breeding and survival, finally its affected by the point of origin before it definitely lands into your mouth and finally swallowing it?
    The appropriate alternative when you accidentally swallow an unknown insect is to use some particular drugs or chemicals which; facilitates digestion rate and efficiency, prevents bloating due to digestion of uncooked insect ingested and prevents diarrhea which might result as ingestion of un edible or uncooked insect and also kills swallowed insect as fast as possible. These drugs or chemicals may include appropriate digestive enzymes or appropriate drug compounds which contains the appropriate required chemicals for digestion. Drinking plenty of water may also be one of the appropriate alternative, this is due to the fact that water increases the rate and efficiency of the digestion.
    In general, edible insects can majorly complement as a food security measure, this can only be realized through; encouraging insect farming, establishment of edible insect research institution within various parts of the country to enhance research on breeding, keeping, harvesting and processing of the edible insects, establishment of the relevant insect production and processing industries this would definitely enhance marketing and consumption of the edible insects.
    Insect keeping has several advantages, these includes; faster rate of maturity than food crops and animals therefore are capable to maintain food supply throughout the year, require small piece for land for production, requires small amount of initial capital and lower maintenance cost thus making insect keeping more affordable to the small scale farmers, this may subsequently lead to attract interests of many insect farmers, hence leading to surplus production of edible insects maintaining steady food supply. This may subsequently leads to achievement of Kenya vision 2030 sustainable development goal number 2 which states that “zero hunger”, Kenya should be free of Hunger.

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