The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

King Arthur and bugs

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CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

King Arthur and bugs

 


Hi folks,


I feel I am Always the last to hear the word but here goes.....


 



  • I have been baking bread weekly for 3 yrs.

  • Today I found a very healthy worm alive and well in my KA Bread, unbleached flour

  • KA advised this is not unusual and that it is acceptable according to FDA rules

  • Phil, the CSR, said that he always freezes his whole wheat bread and that bugs are frequently found in flour in the sourthern states.


So my question to people is: how many of you as a standard operating procedure Freeze your flour so as to rid it of bugs..


Like I said, I am always the last to hear...


cb

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi CB,


I've been using KAF just about exclusively for the past three years but have not found added protein in any bag of flour - so far.


No room in my freezer for flour, so I do place each 5# bag in an individual plastic bag, and keep all my flours in a tightly lidded plastic storage box (I live in a northern state).  My WW and ryes are refrigerated.


I have heard that bay leaves will repel weevils.  Try an Internet search on weevils and flours - you'll find lots of info.

proth5's picture
proth5

I've also had this conversation with folks who produce flour.


There is always the possibility of bugs coming in with the flour (and anything you have found probably has come in with your flour).  There are many things that reputable millers do to minimize this, but it can and will happen. Since it is unlikely that a live worm survived the milling/packaging process, your new pet is probably the result of an egg hatching in the flour.   Testament to the flour's nutritional value that the thing grew and was healthy.


Of course, it is always wise to store flour carefully so that no additional critters get in. I don't routinely store whole grain flour, because I  mill it fresh when needed, but storage of whole grain flours must take into account delaying rancidity so refrigeration or freezing is often suggested.


I store my white flour in a metal bin in a "Hoosier" cabinet.  It has a sifter at the bottom, so all of my white flour is sifted (Sifting will keep larger bugs from getting into your baked goods.  When you read older recipes they will almost always call for sifting the flour.  Although in some cases this is for volumetric concerns, my sources tell me that mostly it was to eliminate the bugs).  I have not seen any bugs, but I'm sure that an egg or a bug part has gotten into my bread.


Again, this is not a matter of kitchen hygiene (excepting extremes, of course).  Most of the livestock that we find in our flour has come into our homes with the flour itself.


Some people have a deep horror about insects, but they are an important part of the natural world.  While some carry significant diseases, the ones that we commonly find in our flour do not.


Yes, freezing the flour will kill any insects. It won't remove them, though - only sifting or "picking" will do that. The difference between a dead bug in flour and a live bug in flour is lost on me - they will all be dead after the loaf is baked.  While I do store my flours and grains carefully and I sift my white flour as a matter of course,  I consider the whole process and don't worry much about the insects that get carried in on the flour.


I do realize that my view comes from a place of living closer to the natural world than some folks do, but I hope that I provide a more realistic perspective.


Happy Baking!


 

Ford's picture
Ford

I have had an infestation of the mealy bugs, larvae, moths, whatever in many of my dry staples and crackers.  I have resorted to enclosing everything of this nature in plastic zippered bags.  I routinely freeze rice, whole grain flours, and other items that might go rancid or have these critters or their eggs.


I think the most probable source of the critters is the wholesale dealer or the grocery store.  I have seen them in bags of dried grains or beans in the store.  I have not experienced them in King Arthur flours and that is my prefered brand.


Once you get an infestation, it is the devil to pay getting rid of them!


Ford  (Raleigh, NC)

Kingudaroad's picture
Kingudaroad

I'm not sure if I should start looking closer, or maybe better to not know sometimes.

Chrissi's picture
Chrissi

Yeah, there are sometimes bugs in flour and this is almost a good thing - it means your flour is nutritious and the bugs are enjoying it!


 


Just throw the bug outside and continue using your flour, there's no problem with it.


 


To avoid an infestation just keep everything in sealed bags and containers so bugs can't escape and get into other things.  I've never once had a problem with this but it might vary by area.

jonalisa's picture
jonalisa

I am new to bread baking with just a few months under my belt although I have been baking with flour for years; so maybe I'm not relaxed and experienced enough to take this news with a yawn. My response is "GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!"


If I found a worm in my flour I would toss it - otherwise I'd be forever thinking about it. That's just me.


So that makes me the last to know, not you :-)


 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I put bay leaves in my flour, in packets of pasta, cornmeal, rice, etc., even crackers, and I scatter bay leaves in the pantry where food is stored.  We haven't been invaded by moths in ages.  If I found bugs in a newly bought bag of flour, I'd take it back to the store.

texalp's picture
texalp

I take each 5# of flour and run it in the microwave for 1 minute;then I freeze it for a week . Then I add it to rest of the flour.


 


Al

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Back in college days, I lived in a house with a communal kitchen that went through huge volumes of flour and for convenience kept the flour in some large metal cans off to one side of the cooking area. Every time somebody borrowed a car, they'd go buy another 50# sack of flour and dump it in the can right on top of the old flour. And foodstuffs were cheaper if one prowled the farmer's market around closing time and bought stuff that was starting to spoil. On top of all that, thirty different people used the kitchen, and most of them didn't clean up very well. Talk about big major horrible bug infestations! After that, anything else is "good".


What I do now is when unpacking the groceries, routinely put every single sack and box in its own zippered plastic bag and seal them all. And I especially avoid "mixing" anything new into any old container. When, even so, a bug appears once every year or two, I use a tablespoon to pick out the bug and all the surrounding flour and pitch the whole thing down the garbage disposal.


I wasn't always quite as careful, but when my cream of wheat and oatmeal started to move on their own, I began taking kitchen bugs more seriously.


(I once for some reason after baking loosely rolled up my slightly moist couche without shaking it out and stuck it in the warm spot behind the refrigerator. It took just a few days to hatch and start culturing a bunch of worms. I won't do that again.)

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A


Mmm. A little bug tried to run into the mixing bowl the other day but I rather uncharacteristically just swatted it away without panicking and cleaned round where it had been.


Wiggly worms though are something else…I was once out for a meal with family and found a quite large, live caterpillar on my lettuce. Not simply under the lettuce or anything. This one was attached like a filament to the very outermost tip of a thin upturned leaf. It must have adapted camouflage to deter predators because it mimicked the lettuce exactly - same colour same texture. It had been keeping very, very still as I ate my way around the plate but when it saw me coming for it with my knife and fork it started wiggling for its tiny, little life. 


I screamed the place down! Not because I thought I had a caterpillar on the salad - that has happened several times before both home and away. Rather, for a split second I actually thought that I was hallucinating that my lettuce had come to life before my very eyes and was lunging at me. My nephew remembers it to this very day…


The manageress took it away to check it, brought back exactly the same plate and simply said 'Chef says he washed it'. Chef says he washed it!? She then kept lurking near the table saying things like 'I'll have to charge you extra for the extra topping'. Didn't fuss as it was my in-laws' treat and thought I'd save them embarrassment but still…


FDA response to worms sounds equally laid back! Once you've got one or two insects aren't they likely to er.. reproduce? At least you found it before you made 'pain au ver' ;-). 


In the UK I keep my flour in lock-tight plastic containers where possible to avoid spillage and have kept some particularly fragrant stone ground whole wheat in the freezer to avoid it going rancid. 


I looked up an advice site on how to combat flour beetles, which are often the greater problem. I don't think I have them but this thread piqued my interest. It said that they do not tend to develop or breed at temperatures under C18/64F, so the old adage of a 'cool, dry place' should be good for normal situations. 


Heat treating flour in a home microwave or oven might get rid of bugs but it is likely to kill beneficial yeasts as well. Having said that the temperature has to drop lower to effect some other insects and some goods are frozen if an infestation is found so keeping flours in the freezer might be a reasonable home solution to bug threats. Nevertheless,  temperatures under 15-16C/ 60F and low humidity seems to slow most of 'em down, so again cool and dry is good.


The site also advises using good containers to avoid spilled flour in which insects might breed. They also give further information about what to do if you do get a flour beetle infestation.


It has a homepage about a range of insects that can attack stored products. (Please note that although the front page talks about fumigation as a last measure in commercial situations the pages on specific pests talk mostly about good storage, cleanliness and temperature control as preventative techniques). Very useful but don't look if you are squeamish about bug pictures! http://www.the-piedpiper.co.uk/th7.htm


Bay leaves sound good to me as they are a natural preventative. 


 


With best wishes and wishing you worm-free flour and happy baking,


Daisy_A


 


 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

 


As already stated:


Again, this is not a matter of kitchen hygiene (excepting extremes, of course).  Most of the livestock that we find in our flour has come into our homes with the flour itself.


 


So the lesson is I guess I should freeze all flour first before using it.......and especially whole wheat.


cb


 

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Point taken and no reflection on any domestic regimes!


(Having said that it did just give me the kick I needed to clear out my own cupboards, which was already on the to-do list. I had to double-check every time I found a stray cumin seed!)


The majority of the technical guidance assumes the same thing - that the bugs arrive with the flour. Any advice is given to stop what's in the flour breeding and spreading.


Just read another post talking about how a whole bin of organic flour went bad with just one bag that probably carried bugs when bought. Suggested solution on that thread was also to freeze.


Seems that some creatures that infest flour can lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs a day in hot, wet conditions so can potentially turn flour bad very quickly.  It's not the buyers' fault that the things are in the flour, just needs managing I guess. 


Freezing is also used commercially as far as I could gather. Could be better than microwaving, as said, as less likely to mess with the yeasts and other good things that artisan bakers want to keep :-) 


best wishes, Daisy_A

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Quote:
So the lesson is I guess I should freeze all flour first before using it

Just to re-emphasize what several others have already suggested above: what you "should" do depends on your attitude toward bugs!



  • If you have zero tolerance for bugs, then freezing flours is a good practice (especially if you live in a warm moist climate).



  • But if you see picking out the occasional bug as nothing more than a nuisance (or even more positively as "warning feedback" about your storage practices), then freezing flours may be more trouble than it's worth.


(Of course, whole wheat may need to be frozen anyway to avoid going rancid, whether or not you have an issue with bugs.)

BellesAZ's picture
BellesAZ

It does happen on occasion, lucky that it's rare.  Even with high quality millers like KAF and I would venture to guess that it might happen more with the organic millers since they aren't gassing our flours or chemically treating the wheat at the mill. 


In cheap flour brands, growers treat the seeds with chemicals to ward off pests, then the plants are sprayed before they are harvested and the grains are again deluged during storage.  So most likely your cheaper flours, could even be more bug free than the organics. 


To be honest, I'd rather eat a bug than some of the chemicals they put on cheap flour. 

rhomp2002's picture
rhomp2002

I keep all my flours stored outside the fridge in the Oxo Pop-up containers to keep any new bugs from getting in and have had none at all.  The other flours (WW and rye and semolina) in the fridge on their own shelf - again none at all.   I must live right.