Food Trends Investigated: Are Your Strawberries Full of Bugs?

At this point, if you haven’t tried to whisk instant coffee, sugar, and water till your arm practically falls off, it’s safe to say you might be living under a rock. Which, given the circumstances of this pandemic, might not be that bad of a thing.

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However, if you’ve made yourself a thick and frothy cup of Dalgona Coffee, I’m sure you (and the rest of the world) have been utterly beguiled by this mystical coffee magic from South Korea and have the Instagram posts to prove it. 

There have been only a few food trends that have wholly enraptured us as spellbindingly as Dalgona Coffee has. In this new series, Food Trends Investigated, we’ll be taking a closer look at these insanely viral food trends that have changed the culinary world as we know it. 

Like all roads that lead to Rome, similarly, all trends lead to TikTok. We begin this series with another video from the platform that catapulted Doja Cat into a household name and struck fear in many fruit-loving souls.

Forbidden Fruit

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It all started with a video from TikTok user @babyadrianne who washed her strawberries with salt. If you don’t already know, strawberries are notorious for having the highest amount of pesticide residue on them. Strawberries are particularly susceptible to infestation by all sorts of pests. Hence, the large amount pesticide used.

So, if you are not already washing your strawberries, you should! 

After soaking her strawberries in a salt and water solution for about 30 minutes, ‘worms’ and other creepy crawlies start emerging from the surface of these bright red berries. It sounds like something from a horror movie, though not as dramatic as one would think. 

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This then snowballed into other TikTok users trying it out for themselves. True enough, some did get the same results as @babyadrianne. @callmekristatorres’ video was one that went viral for finding these ‘bugs’ on her strawberries. “I’m so disgusted right now”, she exclaimed.

While for others, the only thing that happened was a bowl of salty strawberry and them begging the question: ‘Where do you buy your strawberries from?!’. 

Fruits of Our Labour

Of course, I had to try this Internet sensation for myself. Were my strawberries inadvertently home to all sorts of unsavoury creatures?

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Face mask strapped on, umbrella in one hand, recyclable bag inthe other, I bought myself a box of strawberries and assembled my salt and water solution.

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Most of the videos did not specify the amount of salt, but I assume it was a liberal amount. I placed five strawberries in the water as a test. Forgive me if I don’t want all my pricey strawberries covered with a layer of salt, lest it does not work.

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About 10 minutes passed, and still, all was good. My strawberries were still pristine ruby jewels—the only thing that rubbed off was the achenes (the brown stick-like things on the strawberry).

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It was at the 18-minute mark that I noticed something was crawling on my strawberry. It was so small that I almost missed it. Could this be the exact thing that was found in those TikTok videos? 

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Here is a zoomed-in version of my strawberry in action. Indeed it was. A single solitary white thing was crawling around waving hello at me. I waited for more to emerge before I promised to swear off strawberries forever. 

Perhaps, after three or four strawberries before I close the case on strawberries forever.

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Thankfully, that’s all the action I got. As the ever-diligent millennial, I turned to the Internet to help me make sense of this phenomenon. Good news is, these bugs—as freaky as they may look—are harmless.

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They are most likely larvae of the Spotted Wing Drosophila, a fruit fly that lays its eggs on just ripening berries and cherries. Unlike the common fruit fly that lays its eggs in rotting fruit, the Spotted Wing Drosophila is able to escape detection and is protected from pesticides.

These eggs hatch in the ripening fruit and the larvae will burrow themselves into the fruit to feed until they emerge.  A little gross, I know.

While berry farms do stringent checks on their products, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of every larva on the scale that these farms operate on. Their focus is more on preventing the female fruit flies from laying their eggs on them in the first place.

The Bottom Line

Moreover, as mentioned, these ‘bugs’ are in no way detrimental to your health. Sriyanka Lahiri, who is a strawberry and small fruit crop entomologist, PhD and assistant professor at the University of Florida reiterates that “if you accidentally consumed some maggots, all you did was get some extra animal protein in your salad or fruit shake.”

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There you have it; now you’re on top of the latest TikTok food trend.

I have to admit seeing those larvae emerge from my strawberries is off-putting, to say the least. But hey, we could all do with a little more protein these days, and if it has taught me anything, it is to wash absolutely everything first.

Please excuse me while I enjoy these juicy ruby reds with my glass of lemon water.