Join 3,441 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


WORMS IN COKE: So gross I can barely look at the photo.
February 26, 2013 8:20 AM   Subscribe

My Mom drank a can of coke. She discovered after drinking there was a mass of live worms in the can. She probably ingested some of these alive. I AM VERY CONCERNED. Photo below.

Here is the photo she sent me. I have a low ick tolerance for this kind of thing, admittedly, but these look horrific to me and I am freaking out.

She has been to a doctor. He sort of shrugged and gave the equivalent of "Pray" as an answer. I am not okay with that answer. He had no idea what they were. Can anyone identify these, let me know how worried I should be, and what steps she should take?
posted by instead of three wishes to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Seems like you could contact the manufacturer to ask them if they know.
posted by Dansaman at 8:23 AM on February 26, 2013


Which country is this in? What kind of coke was it? Was the can fresh, or expired? She should definitely call the company and file a complaint-- that's extremely unsanitary and disgusting. They look like just fairly common pantry moths, to me, and if so they're not toxic, just gross.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:26 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're maggots, not worms. Eating them--even live--does you no harm.
posted by Jehan at 8:27 AM on February 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


They look like harmless maggots or pantry moths -- probably healthier for your mom than the actual beverage in the can.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:27 AM on February 26, 2013 [57 favorites]


I'm going to echo the chorus of maggots or pantry moths. Incredibly gross, but not fatal.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:29 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did she ingest any of the worms? If not, the worms would have to have been oozing some sort of highly poisonous substance for her to have any problems. A lot of worms and larvae (these look like larvae) are edible so I wouldn't panic just yet.

One possible first step towards identifying them would be contacting a local entomologist. Where is your location? Where was the Coke canned/bottled?
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:29 AM on February 26, 2013


jetlagaddict: The can was purchased in Virginia. As far as I know, it was fresh.

The replies so far: disgusting but reassuring. Safe even if swallowed alive, guys?
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh jesus this is horrifying.

Yes, yes, yes call the manufacturer as soon as possible and complain, send pictures, document everything, etc.

On the doctor front, all I can offer is that if her poop goes weird, as soon as it does, she needs to go get a stool sampling kit and start, um, collecting. (If it gets to that point, they'll make her do it anyway, and it's better to be proactive.)

But hopefully these weren't anything insidious and are, like jetlagaddict guesses, just maggots or something and they'll pass on through and she'll be fine.

Ugh.
posted by phunniemee at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2013


Can anyone identify these, let me know how worried I should be, and what steps she should take?

They're maggots, and they will die almost instantly when they hit her stomach and she will pass them.

You should take the step of breathing deep - a doctor is not going to prescribe something until your mother shows some symptoms that they are harmful to her. Monitor and make sure she can get to a doctor if something starts to occur, but until then, chalk this up to "gross but probably not harmful."
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2013


If the can went "fsssssssKshshplooosh!!" when she opened it I don't think that they were alive. Under pressure in a (fairly) anaerobic atmosphere and total darkness? Now, if it was a can of Coke that she had opened and left sitting on a side table and then drank several days later, well, maybe they were alive but they won't hurt her. Maggots or pantry moths. Yucky, but nutritious.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


They're extremely unlikely to have been in the can when it was sealed, as per this Snopes story about what happens to a mouse in a can of Mountain Dew. They would have dissolved in a matter of days.
posted by jonathanbell at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I've seen those kinda larvae a million times - very, very common... pretty innocuous, too, apart from the OMG ICK YUCK AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! factor. I'd definitely contact the plant that bottled her Coke, though - of all the places I'd expect to find those suckers, "inside of a can of soda manufactured by one of the largest companies in the WORLD" is NOT one of 'em.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2013


the young rope-rider: The doctor took the worms, and did not give them back. All we have at this point is the photo.

Sorry to thread-sit!
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2013


She discovered after drinking there was a mass of live worms in the can.

I can't imaging that I'd drink a pantry moth larva without noticing.

Isn't it likely that she set the can down after drinking it, and came back to find these worms had crawled in? That's the ONLY way they could be in the can and still be alive. Pantry moth larvae crawl all over god's green acre looking for food.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:36 AM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


An entomologist (insect expert) could still help you identify them using the picture.

Virginia Tech's site says "For the identification of insects and mites, contact a local Virginia Cooperative Extension office, or find information about offices in your state."

Like I said, though, many larvae are harmless to humans when ingested. They're a huge food source for quite a few animals. That doesn't mean that none of them are poisonous, though, it just means that I wouldn't freak out about it unless I knew for sure what she swallowed.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:36 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those asking about the can being open, coming back later, etc: No. She opened the can, took a swig, looked closer, and saw living worms.

Maybe the can was punctured in some small way, or they were near the top? But, it was a new can, and they were alive.

She doesn't have the original can, but she does have four others that came in the same six pack.
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:39 AM on February 26, 2013


The replies so far: disgusting but reassuring. Safe even if swallowed alive, guys?
Anglers often use live maggots as bait. I've seen anglers eat their maggots for shits and giggles. It's no harm whatsoever.

Unless and until you know that these maggots are somehow poisonous or dangerous, don't worry about it. It is disgusting for sure, but not life-threatening.
posted by Jehan at 8:41 AM on February 26, 2013


But, it was a new can, and they were alive.

Possibly your mom is fucking with you? Coke's fairly acidic, and is carbonated by removing most of the oxygen and then pumping in CO2 (which acts as a nice preservative, but isn't conducive to living creatures).

At any rate, maybe have her open the other cans on camera; if they also contain living worms, it will be a MIRACLE of SCIENCE and you can charge locals to see the Miracle Worms.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:00 AM on February 26, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's not necessarily a maggot. A maggot is the larva of a specific species of insect. There are at least as many varieties of larvae as there are insects that go through complete metamorphosis. Which means a lot of them. Some of them are, in fact, poisonous. I highly, highly doubt that these ones are poisonous, for a lot of reasons, but just because maggots are safely edible doesn't mean that these larvae are safely edible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:04 AM on February 26, 2013


For those asking about the can being open, coming back later, etc: No. She opened the can, took a swig, looked closer, and saw living worms.

Maybe the can was punctured in some small way, or they were near the top? But, it was a new can, and they were alive.


This part seems weird to me? And I say this as someone who to this day does not drink dark-colored grape juice after a similar incident as a small child. Were they floating?
posted by kagredon at 9:09 AM on February 26, 2013


I have a hard time imagining anything staying alive in a sealed can of Coke, between the acid, the sugar, and the complete lack of oxygen. Could a pantry moth larva have been crawling in the groove at the rim and fallen in when she opened it? They do like to hang out in that kind of corner or crevice.

Your picture does look like moth larvae to me, but that doesn't mean much; I don't know how to identify critters. But as other posters have said, most are harmless (even nutritious, if exceedingly icky) if eaten. It takes a really specialized animal to survive being eaten and do you any harm.
posted by hattifattener at 9:34 AM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe the can was punctured in some small way, or they were near the top? But, it was a new can, and they were alive.

Could they have fallen from above? My experience with pantry moth is that they like grains and things. Did she set it on the counter beneath some shelving with food storage? I really don't think they could have been alive in the coke. That seems pretty hard for them to accomplish, unless they're super moth larvae or something.

Secondly, is there anyone in her house that would mess with her like that? Does she have a cackling ten-year-old around or something?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:05 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Greg Nog: She would sooner joke about murder. Seriously. She's pretty out of her mind over it.

kagredon: I trust her when she says they were alive (she didn't realize this at first, they were a mushy mass, but then one separated and moved) but I suspect she was in a state of panic already and didn't examine the can too closely.

A Terrible Llama: No kids, just my father. He would not do this, as it would a) not occur to him and b) result in their divorce.

It also just doesn't sound like the scenarios above. I was guessing about a puncture, because I don't know how else to explain what is being reported. There wasn't enough time for something to crawl or fall into the can. For what it's worth, it was the doctors opinion it could survive a sealed can.
posted by instead of three wishes at 11:27 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If one separated and moved, it's possible that it was being moved by carbonation in the drink--bubbles rise, break off a maggot (or part thereof), and then push it around a bit. Still totally disgusting, but it could account for how a live-seeming larvae was in the drink. (Improperly stored can has larvae in it, can goes to belt and gets filled, lid gets crimped on.)

Describing them as a "mushy mass" actually seems to line up fairly well with that Snopes story, though you will note that I'm referring to the description and refusing to look at the actual picture.
posted by MeghanC at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Agreeing that they look like pantry moth larva. She should check her bags of flour & cornmeal, boxes of crackers & cookies, and boxes of cereal.

They live in there and make little webs and then grow up into annoying tiny moths.

Without a doubt, they could get smooshed in with some coke cans if they fell out of something else, or I suppose, could just have come out of the cans in another scenario (but that does seem less likely).
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:05 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The maggots aren't harmful. In fact maggot meat is probably one of the highest quality meats available.

I'd be more worried about any sort of fungi/mold growing in the can (if it was in fact not properly sealed). If the can was properly sealed then most likely there wasn't any fungus or mold and the maggots were dead already. I imagine most molds and fungi wouldn't grow in the presence of carbonation because of the acidity.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:13 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I doubt the doctor's opinion that these things could have remained alive for long sealed in the can. This is a multicellular animal. It relies on aerobic respiration which means that it requires oxygen. Beverage cans are typically purged of all but trace amounts of oxygen with CO2 before filling and capping. There would have been very little air for these things, and if anything, their respiratory requirements would have been increaced by the effort of staying alive in an acidic and osmotically hostile environment.

On the other hand, there shouldn't have been any larvae in the can in the first place, so, who knows what it was like in there.


How is your mother's eyesight these days?
posted by Good Brain at 1:10 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think MeghanC is on to something, suggesting that the carbonation and bubbles could have been making the maggots kind of jump around in the liquid, so they looked alive.

Maybe it sounds sleazy, but this sounds to me like it has the makings of a classic "old lady vs. megacorp" lawsuit. Have you actually asked the doctor to give back the Coke? It could be evidence. At the very least, he could back up that the Coke had horrible little maggots in it. This is such a gross incident that I can see the media jumping on a story like this, and if something like this happened to me I'd be seeing dollar signs. I'd imagine Coke might be willing to throw a few bucks her way, just to keep her quiet. (Too bad she didn't post a short clip of it on Youtube. I think that shit would go viral in a big way.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:25 PM on February 26, 2013


Perhaps they were on the top of the can. Considering Coke is so corrosive that it will dissolve tooth enamel, I doubt that maggots would survive living in the can. At most they would drown and then be dissolved by the acidic soda.
posted by fifilaru at 3:35 PM on February 26, 2013


A few followup details:

The coke was purchased a couple days ago. It was living safely in the fridge until this incident.

The maggots/larvae/worms actually were sent to the lab by the doctor, I am relieved to hear. So, it's possible in the next few days we will learn if they were able to determine what they were. If so, I will post here, and leave this open until I do so.

Mom swears that 1) they were alive and 2) they were thinner and scarier alive than dead.
posted by instead of three wishes at 4:01 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not going to look at this picture under any circumstances, but is it possible that the maggots hatched/grew inside some other gross growth medium inside the can?

Consider an even more horrible scenario in which a dead mouse somehow ended up in the can (dead enough to already have eggs laid on/in it). The mousemeat would dissolve in the can, but the mouse carcass would protect the eggs/larvae from the Coke for awhile.
posted by janell at 4:18 PM on February 26, 2013


Lesson learned: Buy coke in clear bottles, or don't buy any at all.
posted by MesoFilter at 9:26 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any update on this, OP? I'm super curious.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:28 PM on June 19, 2013


« Older We started off with Munchkin, ...   |  I was diagnosed with P.T.S.D b... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.