(CBS) What could be finer than a little feces in your spices or a cigarette butt in your sandwich? Perhaps some rat hair in your peanut butter?
Sounds disgusting, but the Food and Drug Administration says that a certain amount of contamination is unavoidable in commercial food processing, so it allows for a small amount of "filth" before taking action.
What is filth, exactly?
The FDA handbook catchily called "Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of Natural or Unavoidable Defects in Foods That Present No Health Hazards for Humans," says that filth is "objectionable matter contributed by insects, rodents, and birds; decomposed material; and miscellaneous matter such as sand, soil, glass, rust, or other foreign substances."
Sounds good enough to eat.
In the booklet, the FDA writes that "it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects."
Further, FDA spokesperson Ira R. Allen tells CBS News that the FDA "applies its resources to protect the safety of the American food supply based on risk assessments of health hazards."
The government sets "limits for naturally occurring contaminants that are unaesthetic but in most cases not hazards to public health," he says. "When these levels are exceeded, FDA can and will take regulatory action -- immediately if any disease-causing microbes are present."Besides, some entomologists argue that some people consider insects a protein staple, if not a delicacy.
Yes, but cigarette butts?