2008-01-22

Cockroach Allergies, Chocolate, & Urban Legends

My recent dive into chocolate chip cookie recipes reminded me of a factoid I heard years ago from an individual in the pest control industry. He said that often when a person exhibits a chocolate allergy, the reaction isn't due to the chocolate itself, but rather to the roach contamination in the chocolate. I flashed back to a lecture by my high school biology teacher (complete with slides) about all the artifacts in food, such as rodent droppings and roach parts, as well as the levels of contamination considered acceptable by the FDA, and didn't really question the statement about roach v. chocolate allergies at the time.
In addition to peanuts, shellfish, cow's milk, goat's milk, eggs, beef, and lamb, The Kid also tests positive to dust, mold, cats, dogs, dogweed, and, of course, cockroaches. So today I fired up the Google and went looking all over the web for evidence to back up the story. Snopes.com, the urban legend debunking site, had never heard of it. None of the government or medical sites I checked had any mention of it. A couple of blogs made reference to the roach/chocolate allergy confusion, but I couldn't find a credible source to support the claim.
I sucked up my embarrassment and called The Kid's allergist. The friendly receptionist who answered the phone had never heard of it, but promised to check in with the medical staff and call me back. She didn't even laugh that hard. As promised, I got a call back an hour later assuring me that no one on staff, including the doctor, had ever heard of any kind of connection between cockroach and chocolate allergies. (All my calls to doctors' offices should be handled so promptly!) Not only that, but cockroach allergies are extremely common and there is no medical recommendation for sufferers of roach allergies to avoid chocolate. To finish demolishing the story, she quoted the allergist as saying that none of the his patients with an allergy to cockroaches had ever complained of a problem eating chocolate.
Now that that's settled, I'm going to try very hard not to think about this ever again.
Note: Thanks to Kolokotronis Takis and
Stock.EXCHNG for the cockroach pic.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good to know I am not the only person researching this. The allergist in my practice has mentioned this connection as the root cause of cockroach allergy. I myself find this link dubious at best. I have been told by the same allergist that european chocolates do not have the impurities and are safe.

Anonymous said...

a biologist on npr today did a story about beetles and got sidetracked on cockroaches. said that people with allergies to chocolate and coffee are actually allergic to cockroaches and infestation of cocoa beans and coffee grounds in the factories leads to cockroach remnants in the chocolate and coffee. people with strong allergies to cockroaches can drink fresh ground coffee but not factory produced coffee grounds. there is not much online about this tho.

Anonymous said...

I heard the same story and now I am freaked out!

Anonymous said...

I also heard the same results on allergy to chocolate. I was working with a dietician at a medical GPO and she informed me that there is a connection to roaches and chocolate. She said the roaches get ground up with the coco beans and are not sifted out. The people that think they are allergic to chocolate are actually allergic to roaches. She was trying to make us sick, and did a very good job.

Sanja Cooklin said...

Chocolate Lovers Beware!

Enclosed you will find Food Defect Action Levels set by the FDA. Insect droppings and insect body parts as well as rodent hairs are considered natural and unavoidable defects. Check out these disgusting regulations before you chomp down your next Hershey Bar!

The FDA also outlines that allergies to chocolate are incorrectly diagnosed. Patients who suffer from chocolate allergies are more likely to be exhibiting allergic reactions to Roach droppings.

CHOCOLATE

Insect filth
(AOAC 965.38)
Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams Includes Roach feces
Rodent filth
(AOAC 965.38)
Average is 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams


PEANUT BUTTER

Insect filth
(AOAC 968.35)
Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams Includes Roach feces.

Rodent filth
(AOAC 968.35)
Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/Sanitation/ucm056174.htm

Coach said...

I suspect that there are cockroaches in many buildings where there is food being prepared or stored. Why just chocolate and coffee beans?

Therefore, much of our food may be contaminated. I find I often get sick when I eat in restaurants shortly after beginning the meal.

I am lucky that I have none in my home. Knock on wood.

Anonymous said...

Here's an article from an allergist out of Mt. Sinai medical center who confirms this. http://www.livescience.com/19402-chocolate-allergies-cockroach-parts.html

Anonymous said...

If you are still looking for a credible source on cochroach allergy and chocolate, Dr. Mortan Teich from Mt Sinai Medical Center is the Board certified allergist/immunologist who is quoted in many articles about the connection between the two.