Eddie Archbold had eaten meal worms and 35 "super worms" during the early rounds of the contest at Ben Siegel Reptiles in Deerfield Beach, The Miami Herald reported. He chased that with a bucket of discoid roaches.
Bill Kern, a University of Florida entomologist, said worms and roaches may not be everybody's choice of a meal but eating them is not necessarily dangerous.
"We know cockroaches shed a lot of allergens, but they're not toxic in and of themselves," Kern said. "Very few cultures tend to eat cockroaches because they store large amounts of uric acid and nitrogenous waste. And they tend to be scavengers and feed on things most people wouldn't consider to be desirable."
The quantity of unusual protein could have stimulated an allergic reaction, Kern said.
Investigators say the cause of Archbold's death is likely to remain unknown until they get toxicology results from the autopsy, which could take weeks.
Archbold, a father of two from West Palm Beach, entered the contest to win an ivory ball python worth $850. He wanted to give it to a friend.