Nasty Surprise In A Nutshell

Warning: this post may not be suitable for the faint of heart or weak of stomach…

My best friend texted me from work the other day with a picture of what she discovered in the snack that she was attempting to enjoy on her break. She was eating Wonderful brand pistachios, and apparently what happened to her is NOT an isolated incident.

That is not a nut, it is a Navel Orange Worm!

My friend was pretty grossed out, as you can imagine! I suggested to her that she call the company to let them know that there was a problem with their product, and she did. The response from Wonderful Pistachio was basically that they are well aware that there are bugs in their food, there is is nothing they can do about it, and that because the thing was cooked there is nothing to worry about. Seriously. Apparently, that is their standard issue response, to a frequently occurring issue. There is even a petition online requesting that Wonderful put a warning on their packaging about the not nuts you may find in the nutshells. There are over 600 comments to the petition from people who have also had this unwonderful surprise in their bags of nuts. Here is a sampling:

This product is disgusting. I complained about finding worms in their pistachios, and they sent me a coupon for a new bag. I got a new bag with the coupon and found ANOTHER worm, only 10 nuts in. …
WHY???? I DID NOT WANT TO EAT A CRISPY ROASTED LARVAE!!!! VERY NASTY. I am so glad there is a petition for this. Absolutely appalled that the overly crunchy nut I was eating was a freaking WORM! I spit it out and there was a half eaten plump worm body! NASTY! People should be aware of the risk before purchase!!!!!! I don’t care if it’s harmless. IT IS A WORM!!!!!!!
Every bag I’ve gotten the past couple times have had at least one. Every time I hope that there isn’t anymore in the next one but there always is. They need a warning label or to get rid of them completely.
Just found out about this from a co-worker. She is eating a bag and has found 5 so far. Never knew and I eat them all the time!! not anymore
Found a worm today in my pistachio. I ate the nut only to find the worm attached to the shell. Let’s just say it didn’t make me feel the best! Never heard of this until researching and i normally crack the nut and pop it in my mouth.
There are MANY more comments like those above, and one has a story about the things actually hatching into moths from a bag the purchaser had forgotten about on a shelf for a while and infesting the person’s home.

Here is a video warning people not to eat pistachios in the dark:

A 2002 blog post at Western Farm Press has some more information about the Navel Orange Worm:

Navel orangeworm, Amyelois transitella, played havoc with the economic returns of many growers in the San Joaquin Valley this season.

This pest is particularly insidious in that not only does it directly reduce yield by reducing the number of harvested nuts and by increasing the number of nuts culled at the huller, but infested nuts that are missed during processing end up in consumer packaging. Navel orangeworms that survive processing usually hatch in bags of pistachios that are not immediately eaten by consumers.

Nuts which have been damaged by navel orangeworms but which no longer house a living navel orangeworm, are composed of decayed nutmeat, frass and secondary fungal invaders that produce potentially poisonous aflotoxins. Products containing moths and decayed pistachio nuts do not usually encourage consumers to make further purchases.  MORE

University of California Integrated Pest Management has even more information about the critters that are turning up in people’s snacks:

Pistachio

Navel Orangeworm

Scientific name: Amyelois transitella

DESCRIPTION OF THE PEST

Young worms are reddish orange and later appear cream-colored, although their diet can influence coloration. They have a crescent-shaped sclerite on each side of the second body segment behind the head. As the worm matures, the head becomes reddish brownAdult moths range from 1/2 to 1 inch (1.5-2.5 cm) long with a snoutlike projection at the front of the head. Most moths have gray forewings with black markings, though actual shades of grey vary from light grey to almost black, and the black markings (or wing scales) often rub off when moths get old or get caught in pheromone traps. Females begin egg laying about 2 nights after emergence. Eggs are laid on mummy nuts or on new crop nuts.

DAMAGE

The navel orangeworm feeds on a variety of fruits and nuts and is the most damaging caterpillar in pistachio. Almonds, figs, pomegranates, and walnuts are also major hosts. The pistachio nut is susceptible to infestation as soon as hull split occurs. The first signs of an infestation are small, pinhole-size entrances into the nutmeat. As worms grow in size, the entire nut is fed upon and extensive amounts of webbing and frass (insect excrement) are present.

Navel orangeworm also damage pistachios by predisposing nuts to contamination by fungal organisms (see FRUIT MOLDS) that produce aflatoxins.

See? Nothing to worry about!

Last year, Wonderful Pistachios had a voluntary recall of their nuts due to Salmonella concerns. I do not know if it has anything at all to do with their bug problem, as they seem to be actually OK with the bug problem.

A 2014 post at a blog called Hibbs Don’t Lie documents more pistachio horror stories and shows more photos of the nasty surprises pistachio consumers have been finding in their “Wonderful” bags, and Hibbs also correctly notes that those bags of nuts are expensive! Read it here.

The slogan for Wonderful Pistachios is “Get Crackin'”, I guess it means you really need to crack the nuts open and fully inspect them before eating them, unless moth larvae is something you are into.

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MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals.