There is nothing like the surprise you get when you open a package from your pantry and find “little friends” wiggling around inside. Finding insects inside stored food is a common problem. There are many different types of insects that invade stored food. They eat a very small amount of food but most people find the remaining food unappetizing and unfit for consumption. Fortunately, the bugs do not fly, sting, or bite people.
Nearly all dry food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, cookies, seeds such as dried beans and popcorn, nuts, chocolate, raisins and other dried fruits, spices, powdered milk, and cured meats. Non-food items can be infested too. Some of these include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental seed and dried plant displays, ornamental corn, dried flowers, garden seeds, potpourri, and rodent baits.
The infestation can happen anywhere; at the food processing plant, during transport or food storage, at grocery store, or inside your home. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods are particularly susceptible to infestation. However, foods of any age can become infested. Stored food insects are capable of penetrating unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams. Insects within an infested package begin multiplying and can spread to other stored foods or food debris that has accumulated in corners, cracks and crevices, and eventually the entire cupboard. All stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present simultaneously in infested products.
While it is not always possible to prevent an infestation, following these suggestions may limit your exposure to this problem.
- Purchase dried foods in quantities small enough to be used up in a short period of time. Use oldest products before newer ones, and opened packages before unopened ones.
- Inspect packages or bulk products before buying. Packages should be sealed and unbroken. Also check the freshness packaging date. Look for evidence of insects, including holes in the packaging or wrapping.
- Store insect-free foods in tightly closed glass, metal or heavy plastic containers. Refrigerate or freeze small amounts of highly susceptible foods.
- Keep food storage areas clean. Do not allow crumbs or spilled food to accumulate. Remove and discard old, unused products and inspect the remainder.
Cleaning, Food Safety