Live roach-eating contest in Florida leaves winner dead

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

MIAMI -- The winner of a roach-eating contest in South Florida died shortly after downing dozens of the live bugs as well as worms, authorities said Monday.

About 30 contestants ate 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 in front of the store, according to a Broward Sheriff's Department statement released Monday.

He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities were waiting for results of an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

The medical examiner's office said Tuesday it has sent samples of Archbold's remains for testing, but results are not expected for a week or two.

"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, who added that he never has heard of someone dying after consuming roaches.

While eating bugs is normal in many parts of the world, the practice is uncommon in the United States and many western countries.

"Some people do have allergies to roaches but there are no toxins in roaches or related insects," Adams said.

The sheriff's department said no other contestants became ill.

"We feel terribly awful," said store owner Ben Siegel, who said Archbold did not appear sick before the contest.

"He looked like he just wanted to show off and was very nice," Siegel said, adding that Archbold had been "the life of the party."

Siegel said Archbold's plan was to sell the exotic grand prize -- a female ivory ball python -- to a friend who had taken him to the contest.

Archibold's prize will be given to his estate, Siegel said. A statement from Siegel's attorney said all participants had signed waivers "accepting responsibility for their participation in this unique and unorthodox contest."

It added that the bugs consumed were from an inventory of insects "that are safely and domestically raised in a controlled environment as food for reptiles."

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