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FDA: Don't Eat Cicadas If You're Allergic to Seafood

Cicadas on a barbecue.

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Key Takeaways

  • Cicadas, like other bugs, are edible and offer some nutritional benefits.
  • If you're allergic to seafood, you should avoid eating cicadas and other bugs, as eating them may trigger a reaction.

For some people, cicadas may be a pesky nuisance during summer's warmer months. And for others, they may make for a tasty treat, full of nutritional value. But if you have a seafood allergy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions you to steer clear.

The FDA tweeted that people who have a seafood allergy should avoid eating cicadas. Like shrimp, lobster, and crab, cicadas are arthropods—or animals with an exoskeleton. Some lesser-known edible arthropods include options like crickets, ants, and grasshoppers. 

These noisy bugs first emerged in the beginning of May on the East Coast as part of "Brood X," which only emerges every 17 years.

But if munching on these seasonal bugs is your thing and you don’t have an allergy, you can feel free to enjoy these insects whichever way you choose.

What This Means For You

If you have a seafood allergy, your best bet is to refrain from eating cicadas this summer. But if not, you're free to cook these bugs and add them to your diet. You can eat them as small fried or grilled bites, or even in cookies.

Yes, Cicadas Are Nutritious

Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a registered dietitian, tells Verywell that cicadas, like other arthropods, can be a natural source of high-quality protein and other key nutrients.

While nutrition information specific to cicadas is limited, the science shows that many bugs provide:

  • Calories
  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Many vitamins

And thanks to their nutritional content and their ability to feed many people in an inexpensive and sustainable way, bugs are regularly eaten in diets around the world. Some evidence even suggests that certain bugs act as a prebiotic, which helps support a healthy microbiome.

“Although it's totally understandable to scrunch your nose up at the idea of eating cicadas, many cultures have been doing so for centuries,” Thomason adds. “In fact, insects offer a unique, sustainable protein source as it uses far less land management than our traditional crops like peas, soy, and rice.”

What to Consider Before Eating Cicadas

All kinds of bugs can be part of a balanced diet. But when choosing bugs to eat, there are factors you should consider to keep yourself healthy and safe:

  • Make sure that the bugs have not been exposed to pesticides or unsanitary conditions before eating them
  • Bugs should be cooked before eaten to help rid the food of toxins 
  • If you have a confirmed or a suspected shellfish allergy, avoid eating cicadas
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Article Sources
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  1. National Park Service. Brood X periodical cicadas FAQ. Updated May 18, 2021.

  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Updated May 6, 2013.

  3. Young W, Arojju SK, McNeill MR, et al. Feeding bugs to bugs: edible insects modify the human gut microbiome in an in vitro fermentation model. Front Microbiol. 2020 Jul 23;11:1763. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2020.01763