Will the FDA-Approved Chapuline Please Stand Up?

So apparently the SF Health Department has prohibited a local San Francisco restaurant from selling chapulines (Mexican grasshoppers) to the public, because the source was not FDA approved. This isn’t the bad news.

I had no idea that I could have been dining on these all this time, and now sadly, it’s too late! At least until they find a way to assuage the FDA, or raise grasshoppers locally. The only place I knew that was selling this Oaxacan treat was in East Los Angeles, so I am doubly unhappy now.  They look so delicious! However, this isn’t the bad news.

The bad news is lead. Ridiculously high amounts of lead. That’s bad news enough. The really bad news is how the poisoning happens- It’s not from the grasshoppers themselves. epidemiologists from UC Davis and UC San Francisco started tracking the trail of how entire populations have increased the lead levels in their blood, and found a net of culture, cuisine, and tradition that will be hard to unravel. One of the sources is how they are prepared: the chapulines are ground up with spices, using large ceramic bowls. The bowls are traditionally given a thick glaze. Over time the brilliant blue glaze grinds off into the dish, and that glaze is filled with lead. There’s still more things that researchers don’t know (the article is just a tip of the research iceberg) But one thing’s for sure, despite my hunger for delicious grasshopper snacks, I’m going to have to wait a little longer until  I try chapulines.

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