Chapulines are seasoned dried grasshoppers of the Sphenarium genus of grasshopper, native to Mexico and some parts of the U.S. It is a common snack food in the southern Mexico region (particularly in Oaxaca, Mexico) and Guatemala. It is commonly seasoned with salt, garlic, or chili-lime. Residents from some regions of Mexico eat chapulines as a traditional snack food. Chapulines are usually prepared with ingredients such as garlic, salt, lime juice or a red chili powder coating. They are not widely available in commercial distribution and usually brought into the United States by individuals who have recently visited Oaxaca or other parts of Mexico.
Recalls & Warnings
Sacramento Health Department Issues Health Warning on Lead-Contaminated Chapulines – The product, often a dull red color, is sold in small, unlabeled bags at Hispanic retail food stores, in restaurants and at flea markets. Recent analysis of chapulines from Oaxaca, Mexico, showed that they may contain as much as 2,300 micrograms of lead per gram of product.
12/4/14 – Case in South Carolina with a family who consumed Chapulines from Oaxaca, Mexico. The chapulines were tested and revealed to contain 330 times the allowable lead level for food.
Update on source of lead behind Chapulines: a type of cultural pot, called a chilmolera, is used when pulverizing the ingredients used to season Chapulines and is prone to shedding lead from the glaze. Due to reforestation efforts that have inflated the price of the copal tree traditionally used to fire the kiln for the pots and seal in the lead, potters have resorted to cheaper wood that doesn’t seal the lead as well; glaze makers add more lead to compensate for low firing temperature (see link for further details).
Lead levels in Chapulines were found to be particularly high in the western Oaxacan region of Zimatlan.