Man's roach-eating death raises question: Why?

Associated Press Modified: October 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm •  Published: October 9, 2012
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She added that the participants competed in several different rounds with different insects, and that the last contest involved the roaches, which were three or four inches long.

"The worm contest happened right before the roach-eating contest. So he ate a very large number of insects," she said, adding that each round lasted about four minutes.

Archbold won the contest.

Bernard said she did not see Archbold immediately after the competition ended. She recalled that an announcer said "the winner was vomiting somewhere and we'll congratulate him when he comes back."

Archbold, of West Palm Beach, collapsed in front of the store, according to a Broward Sheriff's Office statement released Monday. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities were awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.

The medical examiner's office said Tuesday it has sent samples of Archbold's remains for testing, but results are not expected for another week or two.

"Eating insects in a contest is a recent, Fear Factor phenomenon," said Coby Schal, a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University. "But I have not heard of anyone having that type of response."

He said people may have allergic and asthmatic responses to cockroaches, such as homes infested with roaches, and children are very seriously allergic to them. Dust from roaches' wings and exoskeletons — roaches shed their skins — often triggers asthma in people.

"All insects, if you are allergic to a particular insect, you can have an allergic response to it. Whether he had an allergic sensitivity to a wide variety of insects or just to roaches, there is no way of telling," Schal said.

Schal said this was likely an allergic response, "but there is always a possibility that cockroaches do carry bacteria but the response won't be immediate. It would take time for bacteria to be a problem."

He added that there could be other complications.

"When cockroaches like this die or are sick, they can have bacterial infections," Schal said. "But the fact that he was the only one affected, it suggests that it's something about his physiology."

Mike Tringale, the vice president of The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said it's possible that Archbold "hit his tolerance level to cockroach allergens" and went into anaphylactic shock.

Tringale said that such a severe reaction to cockroaches is "probably rare," however.

David George Gordon has made a career out of educating people about edible bugs. His many books include the "Eat-a-bug Cookbook," which features a recipe for cockroach samosas. And though he has hosted his own cockroach-eating contests, he is dismayed by events and reality television programs that focus more on the gross-out factor, than on showing people the culinary side of insects.

"It's indirectly bashing other cultures," Gordon — who goes by the Twitter handle TheBugChef — said in a telephone interview. "We kind of like to think all these other cultures are so suffering from lack of nutrition that they eat bugs. Which is kind of like saying we eat oysters on the half shell because we need protein. This is not about nutrition. This is legitimate comfort food in many parts of the world."

Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch contributed to this report. Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tamaralush

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