In many cultures around the world, the taboo of eating insects is unheard of. The creatures provide food to societies from all different backgrounds and economic status. But in other countries, like many European nations and the United States, insects are one of the biggest food taboos around.
The Taboo of Eating Insects: Why Some Avoid This Food Source
Some cultures may have developed a taboo about eating insects because the Bible prohibits the eating of bugs aside from a few species of locusts.
Many cultures rooted in agriculture have seen insects as pests that ruined harvests and brought disease to their animals, so consuming these creatures has been frowned upon for centuries.
Could I Be Eating Insects Without Knowing?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admits that some defects can be found in manufactured foods, but these accidental additives are not harmful to humans.
For example, frozen broccoli contains an average of 60 insects per 100 grams, and canned fruit juices can contain around five or more eggs from fruit flies and other insects or one or more maggots per 250 ml (FDA, 2009).
Where Eating Bugs Has No Cultural Taboos
The majority of nations around the world willingly consume insects for sustenance, either during special occasions or as a day-to-day meal.
Some experts estimate that over 1,000 species of insects are consumed as food by nearly 80 percent of the world’s nations (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010). Proponents of this practice say that these creatures are readily available and packed with essential nutrients.
Some countries famous for insect eating include:
• Bali: De-winged dragonflies are often cooked with ginger and garlic and boiled in coconut milk.
• Cambodia: Tarantulas are a popular food in this country, for both locals and daring tourists.
• China: The larvae in beehives is often eaten by beekeepers because of a belief that they make one virile.
• Ghana: Winged termites are consumed in the spring after they get fried, roasted or made into bread.
• Latin America: Cicadas, tarantulas and ants are some of the most popular insects to eat.
• New Guinea: Grubs, often of the sago worm, are a favorite treat in this country, alive or cooked.
• South Africa: Many kinds of insects are eaten in this region as ingredients in cornmeal porridge.
For some followers, insects are taboo foods in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism due to cultural beliefs about re-incarnation and not causing harm to any living being.