A Bug Alert For Breakfast Cereal

Extra raisins may lure breakfast-cereal buyers. But one additive doesn't: bug parts. "It's a matter of sanitation," says University of Texas at Austin chemist Barrie Kitto. "The more insects you find, the more likely there is contamination from other pests, like rodents."

Current standards permit 75 insect fragments per 50-gram grain sample. But conventional visual inspection misses insect eggs and larvae inside grain kernels. So Kitto developed a simple $5 test for myosin, a protein present at all stages of an insect's life. A specially treated plastic stick is dipped in a blend of grain and saline solution. The more myosin present, the greener the stick turns. Just two micrograms of myosin in a kilo of wheat can be detected, says Kitto. Major companies such as ConAgra, Pillsbury, and Cargill are evaluating the test.

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