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because I have diabetes, I try to have more dried fruits instead of cookies, and one of my recent favorites is dried figs. I buy them from Costco. Today I came across this page on Amazon on the same product. https://www.amazon.com/Made-Nature-Organic-Calimyrna-40-Ounce/dp/B004LWJFFY I was surprised by the negative reviews, and it turns out that apparently some of these figs contain dead worms! Or as the second most helpful review called them, maggots.

It freaked me out! I'm a very picky eater and don't even like seafood, so forget about anything exotic as eating worms! I got nauseous thinking about it and the fact that I've had these for several months now, and went and dissected a few of the figs but could not see anything like that. Apparently they're fairly small and also hard to distinguish from the inner pulp of the fig.

While reading the comments I saw some angry discussion between some commentators about it, some saying that this is the norm and most fruits naturally dried have things like that inside them and alternative would be using pesticide and ingesting chemicals. That the US government allows some minimal level of things like that inside the food that we consume. Of course the other side was saying that this is wrong and dangerous.

I'm confused by all this and hope that some nutritionist or someone with specialty in this area can help me make sense of this. Thank you very much.

  • I'd say don't trust Amazon reviews. It's way too easy to manipulate. Hell, I even just had somebody ask me to submit a negative review on some product yesterday and they'd reimburse me for that... Of course I rejected but the point is always trust your own senses rather than dubious online reviews. – xji Oct 26 '16 at 21:44
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    Also worms are actually being recommended by a subcommittee of UN as a viable nutrition source. It normally certainly won't do any harm to you unless you have some specific allergies. The region my relatives live has a custom of eating worms. When visiting them, we once bought a bee hive, picked out bee larvae and fried them. It's quite fine. – xji Oct 26 '16 at 21:46
  • Of course, I'm no expert and I'm not sure if there are any other risks with uncooked dead worms. Just anecdotal. – xji Oct 26 '16 at 21:49
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Fruits (both fresh and dried) should not contain bugs. Their presence indicates that the fruit hasn't been preserved well, or that their producer has made some other mistake. They may be unsafe to eat.

If you're in any doubt, dispose of it.


Also, let's talk in some more detail about figs, because I also love figs, and because they have a special relationship with bugs.

Figs you want to eat should not contain bugs either. However, if you pick the fig yourself, or if the grower who sold it to you was incompetent, you may one day open an undamaged fresh fruit of a fig tree and find little critters. Those are fig wasps, or larvae thereof. They are about 2mm long and a normal part of the lifecycle of figs, and render the fruit inedible. However, they are completely avoidable by growers who know what they're doing.

Each fig species has a unique symbiotic reproductive relationship with a species of fig wasp. The wasps pollinate the plants, and hermaphroditic plants (only some of all figs) produce flowers that wasps can also lay eggs in.

We can however guarantee no bugs if we choose to pick only from plants that are—

  • parthenocarpic, which produce mature fruit even when not pollinated, as long as they are in an area without wasps that could pollinate them, or

  • a gynodioecious species' female trees, in which flowers are shaped such that while wasps can pollinate them, they cannot lay eggs there.

I think the grower of those suspicious dried figs you linked (with many negative Amazon reviews) must have made a mistake of either—

  • growing a parthenocarpic fig species in an area that has wasps of the species that pollinates it, or

  • misplacing their female trees, and accidentally picking from a hermaphroditic tree.

Or perhaps they had just stored the fruit badly and the bugs that reviewers found were unrelated. Either way, it's a shame this supplier is giving dried fruit a bad name. I'm convinced they are the exception, as that is the first case I've heard of, and certainly not the way fruit should be.

  • Anko this is fascinating stuff, thank you very much for the detailed reply. Now I have one more question which may or may not be something you can answer, but the question is if I find a bad bunch of whatever dried fruit, should I just go with a different brand? Or could this happen to any brand, given that they presumably work with many growers and they can make mistakes? I'm perplexed because of the negative reviews there and yet Costco carrying these and Amazon too and elsewhere this brand also getting positive reviews, something doesn't add up. – Michael Fard Oct 23 '16 at 22:50
  • @MichaelFard I agree it's hard to say whether it's a bad batch from an otherwise reputable supplier, or whether they have a deeper problem. Personally, I don't give online reviews much weight, and would try the product myself if they seem to be the best option otherwise, as long as I have a way to return them if there's a problem. Other options include writing to the producer, writing to your country's food safety authority, or just avoiding anything with a significant proportion of negative reviews. It's up to you. – Anko Oct 24 '16 at 16:53
  • thank you very much, that was helpful, I'm choosing your original post as my answer. :) – Michael Fard Oct 25 '16 at 0:26
  • There isn't any particular explanation on why that makes the fig inedible though. What makes such larvae potentially harmful to human beings, if any? – xji Oct 26 '16 at 21:42
  • As someone from a rural area with plenty of cherry, apple, pear and plum trees, I couldn't agree less with your first statement. – Korinna Aug 5 '19 at 12:12
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It sounds like they've been harvested too soon so that the larvae haven't had a chance to escape. The pollinating dead insect is normally absorbed inside the fruit.

Very doubtful that they're poisonous since they're a natural part of the figs life cycle, and people have been eating them since Adam.

  • Any references for the above assertions? – JohnP Jun 27 '17 at 21:22

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