Social media have become a place where people often share tutorials and tips that have helped them improve their lives and ease their everyday living. Videos shared on TikTok revealing a strawberry-cleaning trick have recently become viral.
Namely, one video showed soaking fresh strawberries in a bowl of salt water and several small, white worm-like creatures crawling out and floating to the surface.
One Buzzfeed reporter, Krista Torress, decided to check the method, and when bugs did emerge from the berries, she said she was “horrified”!
Soon afterward, Lauren Mackenzie shared her horrifying results as well, and the trend has since progressed to Facebook as well. This frightened many, and people started questioning whether it is safe to eat fresh fruits.
The insects that appear in the video are the maggots of an invasive species of fly called the spotted wing drosophila (SWD). They have a serrated egg-laying device known as an ovipositor, which allows them to lay eggs inside ripe, undamaged fruit.
Small fruit crop entomologist, Sriyanka Lahiri, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Florida, explains that when the maggots hatch, they go on feeding off of the inside of the berry.
“The maggots go largely undetected during harvest. Since common fruit flies can only lay their eggs in softening, damaged, or rotting fruit, the maggots hitchhiking inside fresh-looking fruit definitely belong to the SWD species.”
She also says that these insects are particularly attracted to strawberries as a result of the yeast and sugar water solution commonly used as a monitoring device during berry production.
Lahiri adds that nothing can be done when the eggs have been laid, but one can prevent them from laying eggs in the first place:
“Timely picking of ripe fruits, removal of rotting fruits, and burial of damaged fruits are good cultural practices to control SWD because these flies are attracted to a fermenting fruity smell.”
Eating a few maggots won’t harm you. Yet, eating them might make you prone to whatever that larvae were exposed to.
People in some countries even eat maggots as they are rich in fat and protein, but they are preciously cooked, to lower the potential that they could be carrying microbes, parasites, or bacteria.
Currently, their consumption can bring about more risks than benefits, so Lahiri recommends thoroughly washing all of your fresh fruits and vegetables and soaking them in water for a prolonged period of time, before eating them.
As the maggots live deep inside the fruit, rinsing only will not eliminate them completely, so Lahiri says that “staying submerged in water might force a few of them out.”
Yet, she adds that she is not sure whether salt water makes it a more effective method. She even says that she is unsure that “the fresh strawberry taste will remain the same after being submerged in saltwater for too long.”
She assures that eating a few maggots occasionally will not dramatically impact our health.
“Although the sight of translucent worms crawling out of a fresh strawberry fruit might not be appealing, there are no known ill effects of eating them,” says Lahiri. In fact, if you accidentally consumed some maggots, all you did was get some extra animal protein in your salad or fruit shake.
We would need an insane amount of pesticides to follow a zero maggot/grub tolerance policy in our food, which is neither environmentally friendly nor beneficial for human health. Having pesticide residue on our food versus having to ingest some extra animal protein can be considered as a fair trade-off.”
Therefore, we should all rinse our produce well before use, soak strawberries in water for some time, and then we can freely enjoy their delicious taste.