Climate Health Uncategorized

EC approves sale of fourth insect as ‘novel food’

insect food

HQ Team

January 25, 2023: The European Commission has approved the sale of another insect, the larvae form of Alphitobius diaperionus (lesser mealworm), as a food.  The larvae belong to the family of Tenebrionidae (darkling beetles).

The approval has been given under the “novel food” category. (Novel food is defined as food that had not been consumed significantly by humans in the EY before 1997).

It consists of the frozen, paste, dried and powder forms of house cricket. It is intended to be marketed as a food ingredient in several food products for the general population.

In addition, the Commission has authorised for the first time the sale of partially defatted powder obtained from whole Acheta domesticus (house cricket)  as a novel food.

These two novel foods will be allowed on the market after they meet certain conditions, including approval by the Novel Food Regulation, which is given after a stringent scientific assessment made by the European Food Safety Authority or EFSA.

The consumption of insects as an alternative source of protein is not new. People in many parts of the world regularly eat insects as a delicacy.

The European member states have already approved house crickets, yellow mealworms and grasshoppers as novel foods.

Insect farm operators and marketers say that the move will allow them to commercialize insects as a sustainable protein alternative in cereal bars or dried pasta.

The European Commission has said that there are nine approval applications for insects of other kinds

Novel Foods can only be authorised if they do not pose any risk to human health; otherwise, the Commission would not have submitted its approval to the Member States. The EC has clarified that clear labelling is required to avoid allergies.

Benefits of eating insects

There are environmental benefits of eating insects as food. Insects have high feed conversion efficiency. There is also lesser greenhouse gas emissions, less use of arable lands

Global warming from food comes from meat and dairy, cows and sheep produce methane, a greenhouse gas, and farmers raze forests to grow crops, three-quarters of which is fed to livestock.

If fried crickets and mealworm salads replace some steaks and hamburgers, they can play a small role in stopping species from dying out and curbing climate change.

“It’s such a huge challenge to deal with the rising demand for livestock products,” said Tim Searchinger, technical director of the food program at the World Resources Institute, a US environmental research organization. “We pretty much have to pursue every avenue of solution.”

The EC said the consumption of insects “contributes positively to the environment and to health and livelihoods.” This is not an attempt to change the diets of the people but an attempt to promote food alternatives for safer environmental practices. “Nobody will be forced to eat insects,” the European Commission said in a tweet last week.

Between 35% and 60% of the dry weight of insects is made up of protein. Insects are better than livestock at turning calories in their feed into calories in their body. They also breed fast and gain weight quickly.

Novel food acceptance

Most Europeans are not taken up with the idea of eating insects in any form; hence it is an uphill task to sell insect-based foods in Europe. According to a 2020 report from the European Consumer Organization, an umbrella group partly funded by the EU, three-quarters of European consumers are unwilling to swap meat for insects, and a further 13% are unsure.

A study published in December found people were more willing to eat insects after being told about the environmental benefits.

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