The Gross Ingredient You Never Knew Was In Your Peanut Butter

Peanut butter, with or without jelly, is like the universal taste of childhood. Then, as you grow up, you realize that the sticky spread has a life beyond sandwiches — or even Reese's cups. Some of the more interesting ways to use PB include as an ingredient in Asian dishes like sate or pad thai, a boost for brownie batter, or even a secret ingredient in chili or pulled pork. There are even those who swear by peanut butter and mayo — and let's not forget peanut butter beers (here's a list of picks from

Whether you like your peanut butter sweet or savory, smooth or chunky, there's one thing you probably don't like — or expect — with peanut butter, and that's bits of bugs. No, we're not talking about edible insects — while most of us find the idea quite yucky, these are at least consumed on a consensual basis. It's those sneaky insect parts that, disgustingly enough, are actually given the official U.S. Food and Drug Administration green light to be in our food that are seriously grossing us out.

How many bug parts are in our peanut butter?

Grab your barf bag, this isn't going to be pretty — according to the FDA, it is perfectly legal to sell peanut butter that contains 30 or more (how many more?) insect parts, or "insect filth," per 100 grams. In case you were wondering, Metric Conversions provides the info that a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter is equivalent to 340 grams, so... that's like 100+ bug parts per jar.

So when do those bug parts get into the peanut butter, anyway? The FDA regulations state that permitted insect fragments may come from either pre-or post-harvesting procedures, or may occur during peanut butter processing.

There's other gross stuff in there, too

Bug bits aren't the only nasty things that may be lurking in a jar of peanut butter. That same 100 grams of peanut butter (a bit less than 1/3 of a jar) is allowed by the FDA to be sold with 25+ mg harvest grit or contamination. OK, that's not so bad, but wait, what's this about "rodent filth?" Oh yes, at least one rat hair per 100 grams is to be expected, along with some unspecified amount of "excreta," which is actually poop. Bug body parts and rat feces! Now those are some secret ingredients we really wish we could live without.

So does this mean peanut butter's not vegan?

Doesn't this contamination by bugs and rodents mean that peanut butter isn't ok for vegans to eat? Well, technically peanut butter is not an animal-free product, unless you grind it yourself and you're 100 percent certain that you haven't mixed in any minute bug fragments of your own. If it's any consolation, though, the Philosophical Vegan forum seemed to reach a consensus that accidental consumption of what are (we hope) trace amounts of insect parts doesn't really violate any vegan principles.

Oh, and at least that rumor about swallowing spiders in your sleep is completely false. The only bugs you're probably eating — in peanut butter and just about every other processed food product — have that FDA stamp of approval, so eat up and enjoy the extra fiber and protein.