Grub’s up, kids – but maybe we should be charged more for the marvellous maggots

Maggots are being given a bad press in the NZ Herald today.

A report there tells of an Auckland family’s resolve to steer clear of KFC “after their chicken and chips came with a side of writhing maggots”.

Alas, the family prefers to remain anonymous.

The story is based only on the account of someone called Christina, who did not want her last name used.

But she is wailing about the family getting its chicken meal from the Botany Downs store about 3.30pm yesterday.

The next bit of Christina’s story will have some people wondering where the maggots originated, because she says –

They took it home and left it on the bench for a couple of hours before dishing it up for their 11-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son and the children’s grandfather about 5.30pm.

Christina and her husband then went out for a short time and were surprised to find on their return that the meal hadn’t been finished.

Dunno if it is a good thing to leave warm chicken and chips on a bench for two hours.

On the other hand, Alf is not too sure what could have happened in just two hours.

He does know the common house fly lays its eggs in rotting, moist material and the maggots emerge from the eggs in warm weather within 8 to 20 hours.

Then they immediately tuck into – and grow in – the material where the eggs were laid.

Whatever happened, Christina and her hubby were surprised and horrified on learning that

…daughter Chinen had been about to take a bite of chicken when she looked down to find it writhing with maggots.

“Luckily she looked before she put it into her mouth,” Christina said.

“She was like `there’s maggots in my chicken’ – she was a little teary-eyed.”

If you check out the story you will see that the general manager of KFC, Brent Kitto, is saying the company prides itself on an “excellent food safety record and have rigorous procedures and systems specifically designed to prevent this kind of occurrence”.

“Our chicken is delivered fresh instore each day, cooked fresh every half hour and discarded after 1.5 hours. Our cooking methods would also kill any such foreign matter.”

“We would like the opportunity to test a sample of the larvae, to determine whether it was exposed to heat or not, in which case it is unlikely to have come from KFC.”

Christina, on the other hand, has rejected the possibility the maggots could be the family’s fault for leaving the meal on the bench for two hours before eating it.

“I don’t think maggots will develop in that time.

“I think it’s one of those old chicken (pieces) that they have and it just kept on going around and never got picked up, and then it’s still there after I don’t know how long.”

Alf is unsure if Christina has health concerns or is simply revolted by the spectacle of maggots doing their maggoty thing, which is to wriggle and writhe while waiting to hatch.

Personally, he reckons she is lucky she wasn’t charged for the extra protein, because in some parts of the world maggots are a treat.

This includes Germany, where – a few years ago, anyway – a restaurant was delighting its diners with fried maggots.

Sarah Azubi, 17, had hers deep fried. “They were crunchy like chips and tasted a bit like nuts,” she said approvingly of the new delicacy on the menu at a Dresden restaurant. “There was a soft juicy bit in the middle around the crunchy shell.”

Another diner, Nancy Weinhold, 25, was less convinced by the plump maggots, imported to Germany from Mexico, which the Espitas restaurant began serving last month.

But Christina seems to have had a typical response to the side dish in her order.

Maggots, because of their tendency to grow on and eat rotting food and excrement, cause revulsion in most people. Some scientists have theorized that the disgust response is an evolved reaction to protect humans from eating things that may be dangerous to them.

Because people usually protect fresh food from flies, maggots also tend to appear on food that is already contaminated or rotting. In fact, while you may throw up after eating a maggot, it is more likely you are throwing up, because of food poisoning, and not because you ingested maggots.

In fact, a study done by the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy suggests that saliva secretions from maggots may have antimicrobial properties and have shown success, in a lab, at treating E-coli, MRSA and C. Difficle diseases.

Alf wants to point out that maggots do not deserve being disparaged by those with weak stomachs.

Wikipedia treats them more kindly.

Maggot-like fly larvae are of wide importance in ecology, economy, and medicine…

Anglers use maggots to catch non-predatory fish.

Certain live maggots have been used to clean wounds. Maggot therapy introduces live, disinfected maggots into non-healing skin or soft wounds of a human or other animal. They feed on the necrotic tissue, leaving live tissue largely unharmed.

And maggots are useful in the law and order caper, because they are essential to the dating of corpses.

By studying the insects present at a crime scene, forensic entomologists can determine the approximate time of death.

Yes, there is a downside to the wee rascals.

They can create a high risk of myiasis, a maggot infestation of living tissue in sheep and other animals – humans are not immune.

But Alf is prepared to wager that Christina and her family probably faced a greater risk of finishing up in hospital each time they drove to KFC, which – until now – they used to do every six weeks or so.

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