Mealworms and food moths: are you at risk of poisoning?

Mealworms and food moths: are you at risk of poisoning?

While some experts assure that moths, larvae, worms and eggs are not harmful to your health, others believe that you should be wary of them. To find out more, we asked nutritionist Raphaël Gruman.

It was, not without amazement, that you (re)discovered food moths last night in your packet of biscuits. Worse still, upon closer inspection, the infestation seems well advanced: larvae are moving along the package. A danger for your health? The point on the question.

Watch out for eggs, larvae and moths!

Food moths and mealworms like to take up residence in kitchens because they are looking for food (biscuits, flour, chocolate, cereals, dried fruits, rice, pasta, semolina, sugar, etc.). They also prefer dark places such as cupboards, shelves or drawers.

The ideal for these insects? A poorly closed bag of pasta, flour or cereals or mild temperatures (+ 18°C), which encourages their proliferation.

But should we still fear them? If worms, eggs, larvae and food moths (small grayish butterflies that can measure up to 2.5 cm long) do not transmit any disease; however, they should not be tasted.

Eating food attacked by these insects can sometimes (if not rarely) cause allergic reactions or even poisoning – the larvae and insects can contaminate food with their excrement, saliva and debris, but also different bacteria. Thus, this week several batches of nougat were recalled because they could contain food moths.

Raphael Gruman, nutritionist, nevertheless wants to be reassuring on this subject.

In theory, you do not risk poisoning, because when you cook rice or pasta, you kill the larvae or worms. The cooking takes a long time, in boiling water, so very few bacteria resist this type of cooking,” explains the dietician-nutritionist.

On the other hand, if a packet of biscuits is contaminated, don’t take any risks: head for the trash.

Food moths: how to get rid of them?

  • If you find food moths and mealworms in a package of flour, pasta or rice, it is best to throw it in the trash. Same thing for opened packages which are likely to be contaminated;
  • For the rest, carefully examine all other packaging;
  • Then, favor natural products – such as white vinegar – to deter moths from returning;
  • A few drops of essential oil can also help you chase them away, as moths don’t like strong odors.