I have one fatal flaw as a human being: I hate chocolate. Listen, I don’t want to talk about it, I am now an adult and don’t have to explain myself! But when I was a kid without such confidence to defend my distaste for this seemingly universally beloved sweet, I would lie and say I was allergic. Little did I know that by saying so I was unwittingly entangling myself in a web of conspiracy theories about cockroaches in chocolate causing allergies.
USA Today reports that, throughout October, several social media pages shared posts about the theory as fact with captions like “Most people with chocolate allergies are actually allergic to the ground-up cockroach parts found in every batch, not the chocolate itself. The average chocolate bar contains eight insect pieces; the FDA allows 60 insect pieces per 100 grams of chocolate.” USA Today goes on to report that the FDA says that is absolutely not true.
The theory started with a morsel of a fact: the FDA does have a specific “action level” for chocolate stating that up to 60 “insect fragments” may be present in every 100 grams of chocolate. This isn’t because anyone is actively dropping bugs into our candy but because, when harvesting cocoa beans, it’s impossible to promise they will be totally free of other natural elements, like possible little insect bits. However, that FDA action level only applies to non-hazardous insects, which cockroaches are not. TL;DR: there are no cockroaches in your chocolate.
But let’s say some malicious being does hand you a piece of chocolate that they themselves adulterated with tiny bits of cockroach, knowing that you have a horrible cockroach allergy. Experts say it’s extremely unlikely that the low amount of bug would cause you to have a reaction. That being said, allergies to cocoa and chocolate itself are very rare. If someone is claiming to have a reaction, it’s more likely from cross-contamination from dairy or nuts—or a lie made up by a child who simply does not want to be ridiculed for honoring their personal preferences.