EU citizens should eat more insects, says industry


In the future, protein from insects could be sold for food consumption in the EU. [(Christine Majul/Flickr)]

The mealworm, silkworms, the housefly and the black soldier fly are some of the insects Europeans should have as a natural part of their diet in the future as they are a good source for protein, says the insects sector.

The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) wants to promote insects as a source for animal protein for both human consumption and animal feed.

While the global population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates the world by then would have to increase its food production by 70% to feed the population. This means that the global demand for animal-based protein sources would double between 2000 and 2050. As the animal feed production is already competing for resources such as water, land and fertilizers, the IPIFF says insects could play a crucial role.

At the moment, fishmeal and soy in a feed formulae are some of the main ingredients for fish and livestock in the EU, but insects, which are a natural component of the diet for many animals and rich in protein, should be an addition or alternative, says the organisation. Insects may also be able to meet the amino acid requirements for humans.

Antoine Hubert, the president of IPIFF, said at a press conference on Monday (13 April), that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently looking into the use of insects for food, asking questions related to microbiology to clatify whether the industry could run into problems with salmonella or pesticides levels. None of these questions would be relevant as the industry uses heat treatment in the process and no pesticides, Hubert said.

“The main point for food is allergies. With proteins, there are some people who are allergic. We have to address this, but it would be labelled on packages,” the IPIFF president said.

Hubert said that the industry is not planning on selling insects in bags on the shelves in supermarkets across Europe, but wants to explore how fat and protein from insects can be used as raw materials and mixed with, for example, soya and fish meal.

Insects are part of the diet for an estimated 2.5 billion worldwide, in countries ranging from Thailand and Mexico, to India and Cameroon.

The IPIFF is currently looking into the possibilities to allow the use of insects and insect derived products for food consumption under the existing and future EU rules on Novel Foods.

Novel Foods are defined as those using nanomaterials, the cloning of animals for food production, as well as traditional foods from third countries. The EU regulation on Novel Foods, which dates back to 1997, is up for a review again, after a last-chance conciliation in March 2011 failed to reach agreement on the use of cloned animals’ offspring for food production.

An EU proposal for a regulation on Novel Foods was rejected in 2011 over concerns related to animal cloning.

>> Read: Novel foods review stumbles over cloning

The discussions mainly focused on the provisions applicable to nanomaterials, the cloning of animals for food production, traditional foods from third countries, the criteria to be examined for the risk assessment and risk management, and to the procedure for the authorisation of novel foods.

A new proposal was tabled in December 2013, which is limited to the safety of novel foods and is based on the overall agreement achieved in so-called "conciliation" talks between the EU three lawmaking bodies - the European Commission, Parliament and Council.

The general criteria for novel food definition remain unchanged: novel foods are foods and food ingredients which were not consumed in the EU to a significant degree before the entry into force (15 May 1997) of the current Novel Food Regulation.

  • Sept. 2015: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to publish opinion on insects used for food consumption.
  • 2016: The earliest year a new draft legislation on Novel Foods can enter into force.

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