Brussels | An EU health regulatory authority on Wednesday gave the green light to the consumption of foods derived from a species of beetle, the first step before Brussels allows an insect to land on the plates of Europeans.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that mealworm larvae, also known as ‘mealworms’, can be safely eaten ‘either as a whole dried insect or as a powder’, after a request from the French insect breeding company Agronutris.
Due to its high protein and fiber composition, “there is no nutritional disadvantage to their consumption,” experts said, but more research is needed on possible allergic reactions.
On the basis of EFSA’s opinion, the European Commission must now submit to the Member States a draft proposal to authorize the placing on the market of dried mealworms and derived products, as well as the marketing conditions . The sector hopes for a definitive green light by mid-2021.
‘This first risk assessment of an insect as a novel food may pave the way for the first such EU-wide approval,’ observes Ermolaos Ververis, Scientific Officer of the EFSA Unit. responsible for the study.
“Our assessment is a decisive step (…) to guarantee the safety of consumers”, which became mandatory with the entry into force of an EU regulation on novel foods in January 2018, he said. .
EFSA, based in Parma (Italy), is also looking into the case of crickets and grasshoppers, to determine whether they are suitable for consumption.
It is estimated that a thousand species are consumed in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But in the EU, insect farms (a few thousand tonnes produced per year) are mainly used to feed farm animals, especially fish – a booming market.
The IPIFF, European trade union of insect producers, welcomed the opinion of EFSA, a “big step forward” encouraging “for other European producers of worms and other species of edible insects” also wanting to market food.
According to IPIFF, insects can be boiled, fried, dried or smoked, and ground into powder or flour for use in pasta, nutrition bars, cookies, etc.
Insect-based products (rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber, but also healthy fatty acids, omega 6 and 3) can help prevent nutrient deficiencies, and livestock has a limited ecological footprint compared to other sources of protein, says the organization.