Insects in food is a tricky topic. On the one hand, we now know that creepy crawlies are excellent sources of protein, highly nutritious, often tasty, and quite possibly the answer to ending the planet’s overreliance on meat. On the other, cooties are icky. Despite our default squeamishness, there are signs that more people than ever are beginning to see the benefits of an insectivorous diet. But that doesn’t mean that the occasional bug-based horror story doesn’t raise its evil-looking, antennaed head.
Last week, a woman in China came face to face with the reality of a world where bugs and beef share our plates during what must be one of the most stomach-turning takeaways on record. In a now viral video, the unnamed woman can be seen surrounded by friends and cartons of untouched Chinese takeaway, before the camera pans to a flecked paper towel, covered in a mixture of dark braising liquor and cockroach corpses. These bodies, the people in the video confirm, were fished out of the group’s food moments before. There are over 40 of them.
The horrified woman, a resident of Shantou City in South China’s Guangdong Province, revealed that she originally ordered a braised duck dish through an as yet unidentified online delivery platform. It was only after one of her friends spotted something suspicious floating in the sauce that the group of diners took pause and dived in for a closer look. The more they searched, the more insects they found. It quickly became clear that it was an infestation.
The video goes on to show two sets of diners meticulously going through the dish with chopsticks, surgically removing the dead bugs and laying them on a rapidly overcrowded paper towel. This was no easy task, given that the cockroaches seemed to naturally blend in to the dark, sludgy sauce. Eventually, the clip ends, showing a table laden with mysteriously untouched takeaway cartons.
It is not clear exactly what action has been taken against the restaurant, nor indeed how so many insects managed to end up in the food. Reporters have speculated over whether the contamination is an indicator that the food being served was in fact several days or weeks old, or whether it had simply been left uncovered.
It is believed that the restaurant, which unsurprisingly received a formal complaint from the customer as soon as the cockroaches were discovered, not only offered an immediate apology, but also announced a 15-day temporary closure in order to get to the bottom of what exactly took place.
Reporters from The Mirror also claim that both the police and the local Food and Drug Administration are now trying to establish whether there may have been any criminal motivation behind the roach contagion. Regardless whether charges are brought over the incident, the story serves as a stern reminder to all of us who have ever immediately attacked a takeaway without making sure that everything is completely legit.