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Bushtucker trials: What’s the deal with eating animal’s testicles, anuses and insects?

© Microsoft

© Microsoft



Sickened by the glut of pseudo-health information you’re fed every week? Here to take on the challenge is Dr Radha Modgil, resident doctor on Channel 5’s daytime show Live with...., medical presenter for all five series of Channel 4's The Sex Education Show and for the BBC's Make My Body Younger, and regular guest GP on The Vanessa Show.

The story:

I’m A Celebrity’s infamous bushtucker trials have the nation gripped in gleeful horror yet again as celebs including Coronation Street’s Helen Flanagan (well, mainly Helen Flanagan actually) are ‘forced’ to eat such delicacies as stick insects, mealworms, spiders, ostrich anus and lamb’s testicles (this last joy was bestowed on MP Nadine Dorries).

A five-course meal served to Helen and Nadine saw the pair face-off over what the Mid-Bedfordshire MP described as the "vilest meat on the planet". In the end, Nadine was victorious, chomping her way through baked spider, camel’s toe, ostrich anus and sheep's testicle and only balking at the fermented egg.

Although some might wish otherwise, I’m A Celebrity is heavily vetted and celebs are not asked to do anything that actually puts them in danger so what, from a doctor’s point of view, is the deal with eating insects and animal testicles?


Dr Radha



The facts:

“Entomophagy is the official name for human’s consumption of insects,” says Dr Radha. “Although we think it's only been around since the arrival of I’m A Celebrity, it’s been going on since humans first appeared on earth – before tools were around for us to hunt with.”

In other parts of the world, eating insects is common and in parts of Africa, Asia, Central and South America and Australia the practice is considered no more bizarre than is eating chicken in Britain. In fact, there are thought to be 1,500 species of insect edible to humans and, with 80% of the world’s population already confirmed entomophagists, maybe it’s us who have the strange eating habits.

Popular insects to chow down on include tarantulas, crickets, spiders, ants, grubs, wasps and beetles. For some, not only are they served as a main dish, so delicious are they considered, they may be used as a seasoning or condiment.

There are actually a host of reasons why eating insects is a good idea: they are a good source of protein; insect farming is economical; they have lower greenhouse gas emission than cattle and consume less water than cattle; insect farming is a more efficient, less destructive way to use land than cattle farming.

Many believe that insect-eating may be the way forward as meat prices soar and the world’s population continues to grow. In Holland, money is already being invested in research and to prepare legislation governing insect (“mini-livestock?”) farms.

“We use protein in our bodies to make new tissue and to regenerate cells. It is a vital building block,” says Dr Radha. “In the west, the most common sources of protein include meat, eggs, cheese, whole grains and nuts, seeds and legumes. However, insects could become an important source.”

There can be problems, though. “Allergic reactions to eating insects are possible,” says Dr Radha. This October, the winner of a cockroach-eating competition in Florida died soon after wolfing down dozens of the live insects.

“Insects may also have high toxicity from the herbicides and pesticides they consume. However, the biggest barrier will be overcoming the taboo that exists around eating insects here in the west.

As for eating the testicles of animals, snigger-inducing though it may be, it’s really not big news. Male animals reared for meat are usually castrated and the by-product of this process is considered a delicacy by many. In the UK, testicle meat is called sweetmeats (the pancreas is known as stomach sweetbread, while we’re here), in the US, bull’s testicles are known as ‘Rocky Mountain oysters’ and are usually deep fried, in Central and South America they are known as huevos de toro (bull's eggs).

Animal anuses appear to be less popular, but in Namibia, warthog anus is eaten. Before you judge, however, know that FDA-approved castoreum, used to flavour vanilla ice-cream here in the UK, contains beaver’s anal glands. What’s more, castoreum may appear on the label simply as “natural flavouring” so you may well have enjoyed it this summer.

If this affects you:

“Always do your research if you are trying an unusual food source,” says Dr Radha.

“However, this issue may all affect us in the future as we have to be more economical about food consumption and look for new sources of protein.”

The verdict:

“More research is needed regarding what insects we can eat and how to eat them,” says Dr Radha. “Although a bit icky, eating insects could be the way forward for the growing human population to deal with food shortages and environmental problems.

“I have to admit though, I’ll let you go first!”


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