Finding hair in your food is never a welcome surprise. The visual might make you think twice about finishing your meal — but how bad is it, really?
Apparently, not that bad. I know that sounds crazy, but I looked into it after discovering what I wish I could say was the final strand in one of my dishes recently. This time happened to be in a delivery order, but it instantly reminded me of finding hair in my groceries and other food sources over the years. You might be flashing back to a few unfortunate hairy findings of your own right now, too. Although I apologize for making you relive any stomach-churning moments, let me also reassure you that those meals most likely didn’t come with any health risks on the side.
Maria Colavincenzo, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern University, explained to Popular Science that hair is made up of a protein called keratin, which is chemically inactive and shouldn’t cause any issues if eaten. Dr. Colavincenzo did admit that there’s a chance something nasty like staph bacteria could be transferred through the hair and potentially cause tummy troubles, but that it’s “very unlikely that the tiny amount of staph that can hide on a hair or two is enough to lead to gastrointestinal problems.”
According to Markus Lipp, a senior food safety officer with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, that goes for pretty much any other contaminant that might be clinging to hair found in your food. He told Vice, “In most cases, it is unlikely that a single hair can contain enough — and the ‘right’ kind — of bacteria to cause food poisoning.”
The FDA even allows for varying amounts of hair in food to pass inspection as “natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard.” It’s probably best not to think too much about that, though…
Basically, finding hair in your food might be icky, but it shouldn’t hurt you. In fact, you’d have to consume a lot more than a few stray strands now and then to do any real damage — like a whole head’s worth of hair. “Large quantities of the stuff can do to your digestion what it does to your shower drain,” Popular Science claims with some upsettingly vivid imagery. Um, no thanks.
We won’t blame you if you still decide to toss out the next plate you find a hair or two on, but the only health risk is feeling hungry.