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Urban Legends: Bubble Yum Contains Spider Eggs!


Well, no -- but many other foods do, as it turns out.


In 1976, Life Savers introduced what would quickly become the country's most-popular chewing gum, Bubble Yum -- selling 300 million packs in just its first 15 months on the market.

About a year later, the rumor started. Bubble Yum's soft texture was due to a certain additive: spider eggs.

Life Savers' president William Mack Morris told People Magazine that, "Fighting the rumor was like punching air."

To combat the panic and resulting dive in Bubble Yum sales, the company spent over $100,000 on full-page ads in newspapers across the United States with the headline "Somebody is Telling Very Bad Lies About a Very Good Product."

It worked. Once the far-fetched urban legend was debunked, sales returned to normal (which, prior to the spider egg story, were so high that production couldn't keep up with demand) and all was right in the world of chewing gum.

Grilled spiders in Cambodia Sure, the idea of chewing on a mouthful of spider eggs is less than appealing. But not dangerous. In fact, insects are actually very nutritious. Take a look:

Dung Beetle: 17.2g protein, 30.9mg calcium, 7.7 mg iron
Cricket: 12.9g protein, 75.8 mg calcium, 9.5 mg iron
Grasshopper: 20.6g protein, 35.2mg calcium, 5.0mg iron

Here's something else you may not have known: you likely eat bugs every day.

Bubble Yum
The Food and Drug Administration sets allowable levels of "natural contaminants" in consumer food products. These include insect fragments. Don't believe it? The following facts on what's permitted on your table come directly from the FDA's "Food Defect Action Levels" handbook:

Chocolate: 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams.

Noodles: Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams.

Citrus Fruit Juices, Canned: 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml.

Peanut Butter: Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams.

Tomato Paste, Pizza Sauce and Other Sauces: Average of 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams or 15 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 100 grams.

Bubble YumCrickets in Beijing
As you likely know, insects are a popular food in many countries around the world.

For those to whom these snacks appeal-but don't want to travel too far to enjoy them-Jimmy Bannos, Chicago restaurateur and member of the Chicago Chef's Hall of Fame-offers a Fried Cicada Po-Boy with Honey Jalapeno Dressing.

Chicago still too far to go for your cicada fix?

Bannos was kind enough to supply his recipe (serves 4).


Garlic Butter Spread
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 teaspoons grated Asiago cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Roasted-Garlic puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6-inch) deli-style or hoagie rolls, split lengthwise
  • 20 ounces cicadas
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • Seasoned Flour
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/2 recipe Honey-Jalapeno Dressing*

Bubble Yum
To make the garlic-butter spread, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Spread the cut side of each roll with the garlic butter.

Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Toast the buttered side of each roll for 2 minutes; flip over and toast the outside for 1 minute. Set aside.

Heat 2 1/2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a heavy 4-quart saucepan. Place the cicadas in a medium-sized bowl, pour in the hot pepper sauce, and let marinate for 5 minutes. Coat the cicadas with the flour, shaking off any excess. Stirring to keep the cicadas moving in the oil, fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Keep warm in a 200 degrees oven until all cicadas are fried.

To serve, place lettuce and tomato on the toasted rolls. Divide the cicadas equally among the rolls and serve with the dressing.

Repulsive? Perhaps. But not as ridiculous as one final Bubble Yum-related quote I was lucky enough to happen upon:

"I was smelling my breath one day and I was like, 'This would make a great fragrance.'" – P. Diddy on Blackberry Bubble Yum and its role in the development of his Unforgivable cologne.

Given the choice between a fried cicada po-boy and my body smelling of P. Diddy's breath?

I'll take the po-boy.

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