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Fact Check: About That Video Supposedly Showing Microscopic Bugs in Dried, Instant Ramen

TikTok user @microzoomguy
TikTok user @microzoomguy

Claim:

A TikTok video authentically shows small bugs crawling around uncooked, instant ramen when seen through a microscope.

Rating:

Rating: Unproven
Rating: Unproven

Context:

Although the video shows what appears to be a microscopic view of mites crawling around on instant ramen noodles, there isn't enough evidence to rule out the possibility that the video was staged (i.e, bugs were purposely placed on the noodles) or faked (i.e., digitally manipulated).

 

On Jan. 28, 2024, a TikTok creator known as Micro Zoom Guy uploaded a video in which he placed a packet of instant ramen under a microscope and zoomed in on what appeared to be tiny bugs crawling around on the dry noodles. The video went viral (over 83 million views). Since the video was posted, it has been shared several times across different social media platforms, and Snopes readers have written in to ask about whether the video is real.

Although the video could be authentic, there is not enough evidence to rule out the possibility that the video was faked or staged.

We started our investigation by finding the original upload of the video, which was more difficult than expected given the lack of the common TikTok watermark. After some searching, we found both the original video and a very similar video by a different creator, mir_glazami_microscopa ("world through the eyes of a microscope"), that had over 120 million views. (Snopes fact-checked a video uploaded by that creator in 2022 and discovered that it was fake.)

Roman Kamburov, who runs the mir glazimi microscopa account (the text is Russian), told Snopes for that 2022 article that "90% of my stories are popular science — though they reflect my observations. 10% of stories, fake."

We reached out to Kamburov for this article as well, to see if his video was real, and he told us that it was.

Hello! Any food will attract living beings, especially if this food is left unattended for a while. In this case, a dust mite was observed on the noodles. Sometimes other beetles and larvae damage packaging and spoil food. The video is not fake, but a demonstration that food should be stored in airtight packaging and in a place where there are no living creatures.

When we looked for other videos that might have fact-checked the claim, we discovered a separate TikTok video uploaded by the user oneminmicro on Feb. 1, 2024. In that video, the user, who goes by the name Walt, tested the claim by looking at his own package of instant ramen through a microscope. Walt did not find any signs of bugs like those found in the other two videos, adding credence to the theory that the videos may have been faked. However, this only confirmed that Walt's ramen packet did not contain any bugs, and we couldn't just assume that it would be the same for the other videos.

So we went back to the original Micro Zoom Guy video and watched it again, and noticed some interesting choices that suggest the video might be fake. First, the ramen, second, the gloves, and third, the bugs.

We do not see Micro Zoom Guy taking the instant ramen out of its packaging on camera before putting it under the microscope, so we cannot rule out that the ramen was bug-free before the package was opened. The contamination could have happened on purpose (i.e., the creator purposefully placed the bugs on the ramen), or by accident (i.e., the creator set the ramen down and it became contaminated).

Micro Zoom Guy wears black-and-red work gloves in his videos (as compared to the latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves worn by both Kamburov and Walt). Since Micro Zoom Guy wears them in all of his videos, the gloves appear to be reusable and would likely collect dust, detritus and microorganisms from external sources. We don't see Micro Zoom Guy clean these gloves, but we do see him holding the ramen while wearing the gloves. Since that happens before the ramen is placed under the microscope, it's possible that Micro Zoom Guy's gloves were the source of the bugs, which would have moved onto the ramen while being handled.

Third was the bugs themselves. We noticed that the bugs in both videos had eight legs, not six. This means that they are classified as arachnids, not insects. More importantly, especially when combined with the fact that they were not visible to the naked eye, it means that the bugs (read: arachnids) were some kind of mite species.

But in Micro Zoom Guy's video, the presence of what appeared to be just one cluster of mites, surrounded by a bunch of detritus, felt suspicious. Compare that to both Kamburov and Walt's video, in which the ramen is a lot cleaner. This suggests that the mites had recently come into contact with the ramen; the life cycle of a mite is short enough that if the infestation occurred in the factory producing the ramen, there would be more evidence of mite activity than what we see in the video.

Snopes tried to identify the type of mite in both videos, but there are at least 45,000 species in existence, and likely many more. We were unable to find an exact match for either one, but noticed that the grain mite, mold mite and dust mite all shared similarities with the mites from the videos. But some viewers seemed unconcerned —"They must be great protein," one user joked.

Sources:

Aug. 14, Toni DeBellaUpdated: and 2023. "Everything You Need To Know About Mold Mites." Family Handyman, 13 Jan. 2023, https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/mold-mites/.

"Dust Mites and Cockroaches." National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/allergens/dustmites. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

"ENY-218/IG086: Mites That Attack Humans." Ask IFAS - Powered by EDIS, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IG086. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

Evon, Dan. "A Hot Dog Under a Microscope?" Snopes, 21 Apr. 2022, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/hot-dog-under-microscope/.

Flour and Grain Mites. https://extension.psu.edu/flour-and-grain-mites. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@oneminmicro/video/7330543270713445640. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

---. https://www.tiktok.com/@mir_glazami_microscopa/video/7328081768324533509?q=mir_glazami_microscopa&t=1710534178934. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

---. https://www.tiktok.com/@microzoomguy/video/7329243728336522529. Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.