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Little Bugs in Corn Meal Where Did they Come From?

I can barely write about this again, and I am so grossed out that I might never bread fish again.Last night I prepared tilapia that I breaded in corn meal (about 6 months old), mixed with old bay, and put into the oven to bake. After all was in the oven, I took a look into the bag of corn meal, and only then did I notice it was crawling with very tiny black bugs! Echh! I had to toss all the fish, and got so frustrated. I gave the family scramble eggs for dinner since I could handle preparing anything else. Anyone know how these bugs got their in the 1st place? Was the it just too old? The bag was in a sealed plastic bag in a dark dry cupboard. & what were these bugs? We took a look at the other dry items, and they were clean.

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  1. This is just a theory, no facts to back it up, but if your other dry goods don't have those bugs, then the bugs came from the store you bought them from. Usually if I see those bugs in my pantry they are in other dry goods, as well. If I see them in a closed container, then I blame the store. Note to self - check all dry goods for crawling things! LOL!

    2 Replies
    1. re: danhole

      The eggs are in the corn meal and flour, and then they hatch. They are treated but they cannot all be killed. I fry enough fish and shrimp to where this is rarely a problam. Just buy more corn meal, and check it if you don't use it often. Think about it Dani, how can you blame the store for bugs in a sealed container of corn meal.

      1. re: danhole

        You are right danhole they do come from the stores it just happen to me.
        When I came home I notice there where one bug on the box, so I didn't think of anything at first.
        And then that night my daugther open her faviorte ceral and they where in the box and they got out and got into my pantry and all my other food.
        They seem to like the light and plastic containers.
        I called the store they said they where going to check on it , I hope they do.
        I just lost alot of are food. Yes, Check before you leave the store.

      2. They hatched in there... icky I know, but a fact of life. Sometimes grains and flours come with hitch-hikers and that's all there is to it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kajikit

          They're called pantry bugs. They seem to hitch a ride on something you bought, but if you don't catch it right away, you'll soon find them in the flour, pasta, spices, it goes on and on. Had this happen a couple of times (I think infested pasta box was the culprit). Really had to carefully inspect everything. Wound up tossing most of any edible vegetable matter that wasn't tightly sealed. Clean scrupulously, and start over.

          It's disgusting, but really not a reflection on your cleanliness -- who vacuum seals pasta?

        2. Relax. They happen.
          I keep my corn meal and flour in a zip-lock bag in the fridge for just the same reason.

          1. Yes, you usually bring them home from the store. After a couple of meal moth infestations, I've adopted the habit of sticking all grains, pulses, dried spices and other possible vectors in the freezer for 3-4 days. No problems since I began doing so.

            1 Reply
            1. re: carswell

              I keep my corn meal and extra flour in the freezer to prevent this happening. I have heard that that eggs are already in the meal and in the right conditions hatch out in the bag. Cracker meal in the south is really bad for having bugs when you bring it home. I haven't had any issues with bugs in Indiana but in Georgia, it was more common.

            2. They are just weevils. Small beetles. They won't do you any harm, even though they may gross you out. Sailors had to eat them when their hard tack became infested. They will also dine happily on pasta. They can chew through plastic bags.

              As others say - freezing for a few days gets rid of the problem. The eggs are almost always present in meal - especially 'organic' stuff. It's just a tiny bit of protein. No different to fruit fly eggs in fruit.

              If your corn was in a cupboard with rice / meal / flour / cereal / pasta they can also become infested. Check out the other packets.

              1. If you opened a fresh bag of cornmeal from the store & they were in there, you brought them home...I bought a 10 lb. bag of flour from Sam's Club a few years ago and dang if they weren't in there. I was PO'd because I live in NC & Sam's is in VA so I just threw my money down the drain. I spoke to the my restaurant supplier about this once and he said the bugs are beetles & get in there from the warehouse storage. One never knows how long these things sit in a warehouse before it gets to your kitchen!

                But if, however, you'd opened a bag and used it with no problem and then after awhile you found bugs in there, these are mealy bugs that can come from storing your product in a humid environment. They can get into flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, pasta, rice (NOTICE, GRAINS?). I keep those things in my freezer or frig now...Thank God I have a deep freezer....

                Oh, by the way, I tried storing these things in large cans with tight fitting lids, but same problem....

                4 Replies
                1. re: Cherylptw

                  I am sure you you are right about mealy bugs - they are sap suckers, not grain feeders. Their mouth parts are adapted for this.

                  If you freeze your containers for 4 days that will kill all stages of the lifecycle of weevils. Then you can store them out of the freezer. They are not likely to get re-infested.

                  1. re: Paulustrious

                    I don't know about you but if I know there were bugs in something, I don't care if it was frozen, I wouldn't be using the product...on to a new bag! (lol)

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      Doesn't bother me an awful lot. Most North Americans are (IMO) over sensitive to animal contamination. For example, I had a neighbour that was disgusted / shocked when I fished a wasp out of my beer and then continued to consume it. (The beer, not the wasp).

                      I was not suggesting you freeze the food when crawling with bugs, but after purchase and before putting it in sealed canisters. And there are always insect eggs and parts in flour.

                2. Okay, I just ate a ton of bugs today, from a newly opened can of McCann's oats. I hadn't had McCann's before, so I thought they were pieces of hull when I saw them cooked. I don't know how I didn't notice the many many bugs teeming in the can when I open it. I'm pretty disgusted. At least I just opened the can today and it is steel, so the rest of my kitchen probably won't be infected.

                  I can't begin to guess how many bugs I ate. I know they won't hurt me, but I'm kind of grossed out by this.

                  18 Replies
                    1. re: Paulustrious

                      I don't think it'll kill ya...protein!! (lol)

                      1. re: Cherylptw

                        I'm sure I'm well out of the mainstream on this, and please forgive me for being my usual grumpy self, but I just can't understand why Americans are such weenies when it comes to this type of thing. Are people in other cultures the same? Some perhaps. Maybe this is what comes of prosperity, and the disconnect between food consumption and production. The bugs are perfectly fine protein. If you don't want to eat it, and throw it away, fine, but getting "grossed out" and making a big deal about it? If you really want to get grossed out, visit a slaughterhouse sometime. I think too many people have no idea, or just don't want to know, what happens to nearly all their food as it moves along in the production cycle; this is especially the case with animals and animal products, but with vegetable products as well. The thing that should actually be feared is all the poisons, anti-bacterial agents, bleaches, etc etc and other processing steps that are done to eliminate these "gross" aspects that are often perfectly benign, but people just don't like to look at.

                        Joni Mitchell was on to something.

                        1. re: johnb

                          Ummm, not all Americans are "weenies" about bugs. I don't ingest them on purpose, but bugs happen. I've had the grain moth problem and got rid of it without pitching all my stuff. If I see bugs crawling about, I do get rid of whatever item they're infesting, but I don't get all weirded out about it, I don't overdo the anti-bacterials (try not to buy that stuff at all, just bleach for normal cleaning), I swallow the occasional bug while running too, not just eating. Plenty of other people on this board don't get squeamish either--Americans, even!

                          Joni Mitchel wrote a song about bugs? She's before my time, so you'll have to explain the reference.

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            I didn't intend to suggest that ALL Americans are that way. Obviously some aren't, and I think that was clear from the context, and other posts in this thread, including yours of course. When posting one can add words to head off such interpretations, like I could have said "...so many Americans..." but it strikes me as excessive verbage.

                            The poisons etc. that I was talking about are those being (over)used in the food processing chain, before the stuff ever reaches you, not what is used at home, but since you brought it up, yes I think those who do overuse anti-bacterials at home, and there are many, somewhat overlap those who are "grossed out" by meal bugs that show up in their flour.

                            Yes, plenty of Americans (people in general??), and those posting on this board, don't get squeamish, but plenty do. The earlier posts in this thread are adequate testimony to that.

                            The Joni Mitchel reference is to certain lyrics in "Big Yellow Taxi", which are:

                            Hey farmer, farmer
                            Put away that DDT now
                            Give me spots on my apples
                            But LEAVE me the birds and the bees

                            1. re: johnb

                              The bag was CRAWLING with bugs. I've never seen anything like this and since I am not used to eating bugs and since it's not part of my regular diet I found it to be gross. Some folks just don't like seeing bugs in their food, others like you don't mind. Nothing wrong with either camp, I'm just not down with the bugs.

                              1. re: johnb

                                I don't want to be overly sensitive here, but I just don't like the generalization that "Americans do this" and that people who don't like infestations in their kitchen are weenies. I hate the "Americans are so..." generalizations. Yup, we've all heard them and sitcoms will mock the stereotypes, but it's sort of like saying the French are stinky or black people are good at sports - generalizations cross a line of rudeness that makes people uncomfortable.

                                But that being said, I'm totally going to defend my right to fit the stereotype. Bugs creep me out. I eat mostly organic and have closed my eyes and willingly bitten into hole-y apples more than once - but knowing worms were once there, or even that eggs are lying dormant in my food is not NEARLY as creepy as seeing them squirming on your kitchen counter or writhing in your flour bin. I think it's like the billions of mites hiding in your eyebrows - yes, I know they're there, but if I think about them I'll go crazy. Maybe it is weenie behavior, but it's also mental preservation. =)

                                1. re: thursday

                                  But don't you think some generalizations really are true? For example, would you agree if I said

                                  Americans are too fat
                                  Americans drive gas guzzlers

                                  Of course not all Americans fit these generalizations, or the original one. It's always more complex than that (I for example own both a gigantic pick-up and a tiny Smart Car--we won't discuss my weight). But readers understand a generalization when they read one. If we had to fully qualify and rigorously define everything we say we'd never get the conversation rolling along. Generalizations are useful in discourse, but they need to be understood for what they are.

                                  I have lived and worked in developing countries and in Europe, and my original point was that, in comparison to these experiences, I think many Americans, probably more than in other cultures, are overly reactive to naturally-occurring events related to their foods, not logically justified by what's really going on but only by appearances, and to me personally this sometimes crosses the line to being a bit childish and silly. That's just me, and I was stating my viewpoint. Nothing more.

                                  And by the way, the French really are stinky.

                                  1. re: johnb

                                    You should never use Generalisations. They always upset people and are never appropriate.

                                    1. re: Paulustrious

                                      But Americans always use generalizations.

                                      1. re: Paulustrious

                                        paulustrious, your humor is always welcome! ;-)).

                                2. re: nofunlatte

                                  I have that same moth problem which is one reason I keep my grains in the freezer, but I have traps around my house because it seems that once you get them, it's hard to get rid of those dang things!

                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                    I think I was being a bit melodramatic in my post, and I understand the complaints about people trying to sanitize everything they can see and remaining blissfully ignorant about things they cannot see - chemicals, animal abuse in factory farming, and the processes that create the things we use and eat in general. However, maybe I wasn't clear about how many bugs there were...it wasn't one or two, or even twenty...and they weren't that small. I think they may even have changed the taste of the oatmeal...it was somehow bitter. I think the canister may have been old...they must have bred a lot in that oatmeal before they got to me.

                                    1. re: megmosa

                                      You are right that insects will change the flavour of something. It's happened to me before, too.

                                  2. re: johnb

                                    "if you don't want to eat it, and throw it away, fine, but getting "rossed out" and making a big deal about it?"

                                    I've eaten lots of bugs (non poisonous of course) purposefully and accidentally.
                                    Bugs don't gross me out, I respect them but don't want the flying ones inside my pantry. They've got their place but my kitchen is off limits.

                              2. re: megmosa

                                Did you take a photo? You should send it to the manufacturer. Never know if they'll send you a bunch of coupons or a rebate.

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  I took it back to the store I bought it at right away. I didn't want them to escape! Hopefully they will contact the manufacturer.

                              3. Spontaneous generation. You've just proved how all life got started on our planet!

                                1. They're grain weevils. I had them years ago in my pantry and didn't notice until everything became infested, they'd hatched, and now I had them flying everywhere. I had to throw out everything in my pantry that wasn't sealed. It happens quite rapidly, actually, and I had to take everything out and use whatever was recommended (can't remember) to clean every square inch of my pantry before replacing things otherwise there's a chance they'll just come back.
                                  I'd belonged to a co-op and used to purchase flour and grains in bulk and it's where they came from originally. The co-op actually admitted they'd been having problems with other customers complaining about the same thing.
                                  I don't buy in bulk any longer.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    I had this problem occasionally with bulk co-op purchases. Haven't had this be an issue since I started the freeze-thaw-freeze method with my bulk organic products (freeze at least 48 hrs, thaw, freeze for at least another 48 hrs--I believe this damages the cell structure of the buggers).

                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                      I like this idea and I'll use it when/if I get the urge to purchase something I just can't pass up.
                                      Thanks for the tip. It makes alot of sense.

                                  2. In my opened bags of flour and cornmeal I place 3 or 4 bay leaves and seal the bags tightly by folding over the open side several times and clipping tightly. No problem.... no bugs. Have done this for years.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Good tip; I'll have to try it!

                                    2. WOW, maybe it's a weevil? or flour beetle or something that eats corn.

                                      I'm currently storing my kitchen grains and stuff in a plastic drawer placed on a table, and the other day while cleaning out I noticed a very tiny white/clear catterpillar like worm on the bottom of the drawer, didn't see them in any of the grains though.
                                      I had bought some mulberries where I discovered huge white worm things living inside, however I kept it seperate until I could figure out what to do with it. The other day I found so many more in there that i decided to toss it (closed and sealed bag) so I did and two days later I found these caterpillar things on the FLOOR crawling around about 1-3 feet away from the garbage, first I found one then two more and it shocked me to death. It means they got out of their sealed bag and somehow crawled out of all the garbage and onto the floor, SHOCKING but I know now not to under estimate bugs.

                                      1. I just bought a new package from a different mfg. I think this one is Bob's Red Mill. It has an expiration date good until 3/11. Hope I use it up by then...

                                        1. Mealy moths love sugar and whole grains so Bulk buying at Whole Foods is one source for the little buggers. To avoid them, keep your grains in the freezer. Then purchase Pantry Pest at the hardware store. You get two traps in one box. Put one in the kitchen and the other where you might see even one small brown moth, like your closet. Although it may be denied by conservationists, they do eat wool and are not bothered by moth balls. Their larvae leave little webbings surrounding the ruined food or wools. The Pantry Pest is a sexual lure. Eventually you will be rid of them when they fail to reproduce. It may take more than one season and several traps to regain control of your home. Throw everything out they have touched. I lost 6 oriental rugs, all my cereals, sugars, and flour plus two stories of wall to wall wool carpet before I was done. I was told 4 days in the deep freeze was enough to kill the larvae, but I still keep all sugar and grain in my freezer.

                                          1. If you can't handle little bugs in your corn meal, don't even think about consuming fish, coffee, or chocolate.