Bugging Out: Chocolate Allergy Linked to Roaches

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Allergy sufferers who react to chocolate might be shocked to learn their allergy could be linked to something other than the cocoa bean: an allergy to cockroaches.

An average of 8 insect parts are found in a chocolate bar and deemed safe, according to the FDA's guidelines.

"Most foods have natural contaminants in them, but there are levels which the FDA deems safe," said allergist Dr. Morton M. Teich.  "Anything more than 60 insect pieces per 100 grams of chocolate is rejected by the FDA. "

Trace amounts of insect parts that are ground into the food and can affect people with allergies and asthma.  Some side effects include migraines, cramps, itching or hives.

Chocolate isn't the only food product to blame for contamination, other foods like peanut butter,  macaroni, fruit, cheese, popcorn, wheat and some cheese also contain this material.

Allergists can help patients with cockroach allergies by giving them allergy shots with small amounts of the insect as well as removing chocolate from their diet.

First reported in 1943, allergists began skin testing for cockroaches in 1959.  "Allergists are testing now because they're finding that asthma can be caused by cockroaches," said Teich, "I have patients whom we've tested for cockroach who really get reactions."

Teich says most of his patients are shocked at this information and swear off chocolate after discovering its contaminants. "Most of them say, 'I'm not going to eat that anymore!'"

However if you think a simple switch of brands will keep you from safe from roaches, you're wrong-cockroaches and their droppings seem to be indigenous to the cocoa bean.

"To avoid [insects in your food], it's almost impossible," said Teich.  "You probably would have to stop eating completely."

To consume foods without traces of insects, producers would have to use more pesticides, which Teich believes are much worse than eating a few insects.  Some argue that the pricier chocolate brands take extra precautions in separating the bugs from the beans but there is no evidence that proves it.