Is It Safe to Eat Food after Ants Have Gotten to It?

You may wonder if it is safe to eat food after ants have gotten into it. For the most part, you won’t have any issues.

Of course, you want to make sure all of the ants are removed, but there are places in the world where people intentionally consume them

They are considered a source of protein. In other locations, chocolate covered ants are considered a delicacy!

The thought of  eating ants can gross some people out! For others, it is a thrilling new experience. For those that don’t have money to replace items, they may have no choice but to consume them.

It may gross you out, the thought of eating anything ants have gotten into. But, typically, eating something they get into won’t make you sick either. 

However, ants can, in fact, carry various pathogens that can contaminate your food on their bodies, so that should always be taken into consideration. 

To learn more about the ants getting into food, and the risk associated with eating such foods, keep reading.

Will It Matter Which Species of Ants?

Typically, the species of ants which will find their way into food sources are called sugar ants. They are harmless but they are attracted to just about anything sweet.

This includes sugar and foods that contain sugar in them. They have a very good sense of smell and they will be able to get into a home through very tiny cracks around windows or the structure.

Sugar ants aren’t going to bite you or sting you. If you happen to consume them when they have been in your food, they won’t be causing any problems in your mouth or in the digestive system. The only thing that could cause problems in that case are microorganisms which the ants might carry. 

But the only problem sugar ants could cause a human on their own is by causing an allergic reaction. Less than 1% of the population is allergic to sugar ants, but to those who are, eating them (or the food they have been around)  could trigger a variety of harsh side effects.

However, if you know you are allergic to any kind of ant, we recommend staying away from any food ants have been in contact with, no matter the species. It is just not with the risk. 

Moreover, there are other kinds of ants that can actually harm you. Should you consume fire ants or those which are able to bite; the outcome can be very different. Some ants are able to sting, and the venom they deliver is powerful even though the ants are so small.

If they bite the inside of the mouth it can be very painful and the area may swell up. The area may be sensitive for several days afterward..

Should you swallow these types of ants while they are still alive, they may not have time to sting you or bite you on the way down.

You aren’t out of the woods though, as they can create some trouble within your esophagus and throughout the digestive system. Your body may not respond well to these tiny foreign elements.

When it comes to basic sugar ants, they aren’t going to be difficult to swallow or cause any harm. They aren’t going to be able to live in your stomach or crawl around your body!

The acid in your stomach is going to be more than enough to kill them right away! This may help put your mind at ease if you do eat some ants at some point – by accident or otherwise!

Do Ants Carry Diseases?

Ants do not transmit disease the way mosquitoes do, for example. That is, an ant bite won’t get you infected with malaria or anything similar. The only way an ant bite could get infected is by secondary infection. On a similar note, an ant simply walking on your skin is very unlikely to do any harm (besides biting, depending on the species). 

However, ants can actually be vectors of foodborne disease. According to studies like this one and this one. Ants can pick up bacteria like E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria (as well as various other microorganisms) and carry them around on their bodies (mainly feet and mandibles). That means that ants can actually end up contaminating the food they come in contact with. 

Given enough time and the right conditions, the bacteria transmitted by ants can grow in the food and eating such food can have serious consequences to your health. 

Now, not all ants carry pathogens and won’t necessarily contaminate your food, but are you willing to gamble on that? We’d rather not. 

Still, for those who decide to take a chance and try ant-contaminated food, there is a good chance that nothing will happen. The likelihood of getting food poisoning from ant-contaminated foods also goes down if you cook the food thoroughly. However, this is obviously not always an option depending on the type of food the ants got into. 

While it is best to not eat food with ants still in it, you might be able to get rid of the ants, depending on the type of food. 

If they have all left that area, you don’t necessarily have to toss the item out. Depending on the type of food source, you may be able to wash it. For example, whole vegetables and fruits that ants have walked on are safe to eat, as long as they are cleaned beforehand. 

Other food, like those containing dairy or meat, should not be eaten anyway if left outside of the fridge for too long. These foods can get contaminated – it might be an ant that brings the pathogens in, or it might be something else. Either way, the risk is there. 

Will Eating Ants Make You Sick?

You may be worried eating food ants have gotten into will make you sick. Some households toss out the food because of this worry, they don’t want to take the risk.

They worry the ants may have gotten into poison to kill them off and that could now be on the food source. There is a small chance of that, and there is a slightly bigger chance that ants might be bringing other pathogens found in or around your home. 

Still, consuming ants alone is unlikely to make you sick – they are even eaten as a delicacy in some cultures. But even then, there is a slight chance of an allergic reaction. 

Finally, some people might get sick when they find out they consumed ants, because of the mental concept it creates for them. It can cause them to feel nauseated or vomit. This isn’t due to how their body reacts to ants though.

Instead, it is a psychological reaction that in turn influences the body to reject that situation. Some people can’t get beyond the fact they consumed ants and they are disgusted by it so their brain is working hard to find a solution.

Where do People Consume Ants?

There are various locations where people in given cultures consume ants regularly. One of them is the Aboriginal tribes located in Australia. They consume honey pot ants because they eat a variety of insects and bugs.

This is inside of them and offers the tribe people a great source of food and nutrients.

In other locations, wild red ants are collected for the purpose of consuming them. This includes tribes found in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. They are widely consumed throughout Brazil and Columbia. In the USA, there are sold to thrill-seekers interested in trying this out firsthand.

Ants can be eating raw or they can be cooked. It all depends on the taste someone wants and the culture. The taste depends on the species of ants too. They tend to be sour on their own.

They can be coated with chocolate or honey for a sweet taste. They can be baked or roasted if you prefer.

Examine the Food

When ants have gotten into food, examine it, and decide if you still want to eat it or dispose of it. If the ant activity seems very minimal, that can encourage you to keep the product.

If the source is a large purchase, such as a 25-pound bag of sugar, you may be more inclined to keep it so you aren’t wasting money to replace it.

As a rule of thumb, any food that has been left out when it should have been refrigerated should be tossed out. This is due to health concerns with it more than the issue of the ants though.

You don’t want to end up with food poisoning or other problems because you choose to eat that food.

It may surprise you to learn ants will also be attracted to greasy foods. Clean up after your meals right away. The longer you leave food out, the higher the risk you will attract ants with it.

Pack any leftovers in airtight containers so the ants can’t get into them. If you procrastinate you may discover the ants have already found their way to that food source and helped themselves.

The Final Decision is yours

Statistically, there aren’t any reports of anyone becoming seriously ill or dying because they ate food after ants have gotten into it. If there is an infestation, you are better off tossing the food items out and replacing them.

If there aren’t a large number of them the final decision is yours. Some individuals have a harder time getting beyond the mental aspect of doing so than others.

To keep ants from getting into your food, make sure you wipe down counters regularly. Take care of spills immediately too, especially sugary drinks or foods. Make sure you keep products in tight containers.

Add some cinnamon sticks to your sugar canister and it will keep the ants at bay!

If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:



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Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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