What do about little critters in a bag of flour?

This is from Sunday: So, I opened a bag of whole wheat flour this morning to make "hurricane" muffins because I got up early to walk the dog before Irene made landfall. There were some little critters walking around in the flour. My first thought was total repulsion, but before I dumped five pounds of flour into the garbage, I remembered reading several articles recently about eating insects. I used a sieve to get most of the bugs out of the flour and made the muffins -- a little extra protein? Is it okay to use the rest of the flour? Your thoughts, please and thank you...Ann

  • Posted by: Ann2Cook
  • September 1, 2011


drkate September 4, 2011
In terms of coming ready-infested, cornmeal is especially bad in my experience. I always freeze any cornmeal, even the non-organic stuff, because it invariably sprouts a little crop of $*(@& pantry moths that will gleefully migrate to any other dry goods they can get into. I've even found them in stuff like spices, which wouldn't seem very appetizing to me, though I am not a bug, and as we've seen in other comments, bugs are a multicultural and international lot, so why wouldn't they like a bit of curry or the taste of crushed red peppers? As a kid, my mom routinely sifted out the buggy bits from flour, much to her wannabe bourgeois children's disgust. I love that other families look at it as my dad did: "Free protein!"

Voted the Best Reply!

felony September 3, 2011
Weevils, ugh - but part of life, history, food and eating.
1. Keep dry goods in a sealed tub in the pantry
2. Freeze or chill dry goods at high risk of bringing larvae into your home (Ie. any high end, organic, wholegrain, low processed etc. Basically, the good shit!
3. Fresh and dry Bay leaves are a repellant to the Pantry Moths that lay the weevil larvae, spread them round
4. Pick up some Pantry Moth traps to minimize the swarms that descend during Summer/Autumn
5. Take a deep breath and realize that if you knew about all the things that have happened to our food along the way, or are lurking in it, you would never ever eat again.
Life is short, stress over something more important
wssmom September 2, 2011
Thanks, I'll just have some coffee .... LOL. What interesting reading!!
mensaque September 2, 2011
To those curious about the "lab info",not ALL third world people eat bugs from the flour or from the floor...I live in Brazil and down here,even bugs you buy to feed a pet come from labs(some people have spiders or snakes for pets...for the life of me can't tell why,but...OK).And I never said all bugs eaten ARE specially bred,I said they are SUPOSED to be...The air we breath has bugs on it...oh please!It's not the same and we all know it.You're just trying to make her feel better and I'm not saying that's wrong but let's get real:gross!
Ann2Cook September 2, 2011
To AntoniaJames: Thank you for bringing Bill Bryson's At Home to my attention... will read it. And thanks to those who suggested freezing and plastic bags. This particular bag of flour migrated to the back of a closet that I use for bottles and cans, so I am thinking that the high quality organic flour came with the baby version of the critters. What that says to me, as suggested by Droplet's comment, is that they arrived in the bag and the delay in using the flour resulted in their morphing into the adult form.
CarlaCooks September 2, 2011
My kitchen becomes a hotel to silverfish in the winter. Those frakking bugs get into everything! I make sure to keep all my bags of flour (including the ones I haven't opened) in a well sealed plastic container/bag. Since I've started doing this, I haven't seen a single silverfish in my flour. Thank the gods.
Ellmy September 1, 2011
I'm curious about where the information that "the bugs being eaten worldwide are bred in laboratories and kept in sterile environments" came from; to my knowledge, cultures that consume insects are certainly not marching out to the supermarket to pick up their packets of "humanely raised, lab-fresh crickets"! ;-) People have been eating bugs long before we became obsessed with sterility and cleanliness. That being said, boulangere and some other commentors have good points. If you feel squeamish about using the flour for cooking, might I suggest some art projects? Flour is great for homemade play-dough!
Droplet September 1, 2011
My first reaction would also be to throw it away, and I probably will if it happens to me just because I know I will keep thinking about those bugs while I am eating whatever I make...Aside from that, in Europe flour is characterized by its ash content, and ash is the amount of "foreign" matter in the flour that is measured by burning the flour (this is a very crude definition). The lower the ash content, the higher grade the flour. Rodents eat grains and even if there are no drooping in there, you can't avoid things like mouse hairs for example. Also, I'd think this is somewhat to be expected with organic produce, since the absence of nasty pesticides basically ensures a normal breeding environment for many critters.It is unpleasant, but it's a part of life. Your story somewhat reminds of a story in the Yellow Farm Cookbook, where the guest was served a piece of cake by a very nice country lady, and even though she saw little red ants climbing up and down her cake, she ate it anyway because she didn't want to offend the lady. I thought it was a cute story.
susan G. September 1, 2011
We might as well stop breathing, since every time we inhale we are probably welcoming microscopic creatures. So, use the freezer trick for prevention, store flour in securely closed jars, sift... and enjoy your baked goods (or cooked meats...). If that bothers you, donate it to the denizens of the compost pile.
SKK September 1, 2011
@AJ - thanks for reminding us. I once had a client who owned a flour mill and I was surprised at the amount of insect parts allowed in milled flour, as well as rodent droppings. There is a schedule for it and the testing is random, if I recall correctly.

I too am a country girl.
creamtea September 1, 2011
"That brunch invitation? I think we're going to have to cancel."
AntoniaJames September 1, 2011
Actually, insects in dry goods in many parts of this country are still a way of life. For many generations, that was a primary use of sifters. I just finished reading Bill Bryson's "At Home," which I recently stumbled on at the library. In this well-researched and very interesting book, Bryson reports that every one of us in the U.S., today, actually eats a surprisingly large amount of insects every year without even knowing it. And then, there are the rather high tolerance levels -- permitted quantities -- of mouse droppings in milled flour and grains grown in the U.S. (Given that rodents eat 10% of the grain crops grown in the U.S., well, that just sort of follows.) I grew up in the country, with a very down-to-earth mother. And I'm not bothered by any of this. ;o)
SKK September 1, 2011
What blows me away is how many hits you are getting on this question in only 2 hours. A nerve has been struck!
Ann2Cook September 1, 2011
Thanks everyone! SKK from your icon I see that you are a cat person so that might explain the reference to mouse droppings --- definitely not!! I agree with SeaJambon, spankit and SKK that they are most likely weevils. I enjoyed the muffins, but will discard the remaining flour.
SKK September 1, 2011
Dr B, please don't read this - it is getting too close to dinner!
My experiences in Africa and Papua New Guinea have me aligning with spankit and SeaJambon. No need to be afraid. And protein is protein, if what you are dealing with is bugs. Your choice on what to do. I would have you look at your other dry items because there could be bugs there also. And clean out containers and shelves so you don't have this problem again. At least the critters were moving so you know you aren't dealing with mice! Thanks for bringing up an honest dilemma! The 98 people viewing this question sure means a lot of people share your interest.
spankit September 1, 2011
most likely they were weevils, they will not hurt you, throwing away the flour is up to you, as SeaJambon stated, in most if not all third world countries, would jsut sift them out, i know i live in Guatemala
SeaJambon September 1, 2011
Hmmm... well to each their own but people have been eating weevils and other insects in baked goods for centuries. Personally, I'd dump it -- but I'd also be shocked if anyone experienced any adverse effects from the muffins. Insects in flour and similar grains are a way of life in many third world countries. Not saying we need to be third world in our outlook, but also not saying that we need to be afraid of our food.
boulangere September 1, 2011
Freezing your flour for 24 hours or so before opening it isn't a bad idea. That will kill anything that comes along with it, which is likely the case with yours. In deference to Dr. B's lunch, I won't put too fine a point on it, but it's not just the bugs, but I suspect the bag lacked a built-in restroom.
drbabs September 1, 2011
You're not serious. I so wish I weren't eating lunch right now. Throw. Everything. Away. If you don't use your whole wheat flour very often, buy a smaller bag and keep it well-wrapped in the freezer.
mensaque September 1, 2011
I wouldn't use it again even if you did it on sunday,ate the muffins then and are still alive,hahaha!The bugs being eaten wordwide,are suposed to be specially bred in laboratory and kept on sterile environments.Or eaten by mistake when dangerously close to a hot dog here,or a hot plate there...For me,please!Don't mess with Mother Nature!She's a bitch!Hahaha!
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