SACRAMENTO - Consumers, particularly pregnant women and children, should avoid eating chapulines (grasshoppers) from Oaxaca, Mexico, because they may contain excessively high levels of lead that could cause serious health problems, State health Director Diana M. Bonta, R.N., Dr.P.H., warned.
Residents from some regions of Mexico eat chapulines as a traditional snack food. Chapulines are usually prepared with ingredients such as garlic, salt, lime juice or a red chili powder coating. They are not widely available in commercial distribution and usually brought into the United States by individuals who have recently visited Oaxaca or other parts of Mexico.
The product, often a dull red color, is sold in small, unlabeled bags at Hispanic retail food stores, in restaurants and at flea markets. The public and sellers of chapulines are encouraged to contact the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) at (916)445-2264 to provide information that can assist public health investigators in learning more about the potential threat that the product poses to children.
Recent analysis of chapulines from Oaxaca, Mexico, showed that they may contain as much as 2,300 micrograms of lead per gram of product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that children under age 6 should consume on average no more than 6.0 micrograms of lead each day from all food sources. A young child eating one of these highly contaminated chapulines could ingest nearly 60 times his or her tolerable daily intake for lead. While some of the chapulines analyzed contained no detectable lead, consumers have no practical way of determining if the product is contaminated with lead. The source of lead in the chapulines form Oaxaca is under investigation.
Parents of children who may have consumed chapulines should consult with their physician or health care provider to determine if further testing is warranted. For more information about lead poisoning, parents may contact Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
1 (800) LA-4-LEAD