A contestant in a roach-eating contest who downed dozens of live bugs and worms collapsed and died shortly after winning the contest in South Florida, authorities say.
About 30 contestants ingested the insects during Friday night’s contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach about 40 miles north of Miami. The grand prize was a python.
Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach became ill shortly after the contest ended and collapsed outside the store, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office statement released Monday. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Authorities were awaiting results of an autopsy to determine a cause of death.
The sheriff’s office said none of the other contestants fell ill.
“Unless the roaches were contaminated with some bacteria or other pathogens, I don’t think that cockroaches would be unsafe to eat,” said Michael Adams, professor of entomology at the University of California at Riverside. He said he has never heard of someone dying after consuming roaches.
“Some people do have allergies to roaches,” he added, “but there are no toxins in roaches or related insects.”
There was no updated phone number listed for Archbold in West Palm Beach.
“We feel terribly awful,” said store owner Ben Siegel, who added that Archbold did not appear to be sick before the contest.
“He looked like he just wanted to show off and was very nice,” Siegel said, adding that Archbold was “the life of the party.”
A statement from Siegel’s attorney said all the participants signed waivers “accepting responsibility for their participation in this unique and unorthodox contest.”
The bugs consumed were from an inventory of insects “that are safely and domestically raised in a controlled environment as food for reptiles.”