Fancy eating mealworms? EU set to implement regulations for insect material to enter food chain

‘It is up to consumers to decide whether they want to eat insects or not’
Fancy eating mealworms? EU set to implement regulations for insect material to enter food chain

New EU regulation will authorise the insect (in its dried yellow mealworm from) as a food. File Picture.

The EU Commission is getting set to implement a regulation that will allow the Union’s citizens to eat maggots.

The regulation will authorise the insect (in its dried yellow mealworm from) as a food and will be adopted by the Commission in the coming weeks.

Yellow mealworm is the larvae of the Tenebrio molitor beetle, and will be classed as a ‘novel food’. It is intended to be used in snacks or as an ingredient in numerous food products.

Novel food is defined by Eurocrats as food not consumed “to a significant degree” by humans in the EU before May 15, 1997, when the first regulation on novel food came into force.

The Novel Food Regulation requires authorisation before a product can be placed on the EU market, following a stringent scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The Authority verifies, in light of the scientific evidence available, that the food does not pose a safety risk to human health.

The latest development means that the final steps in the procedure for authorising yellow mealworm as a novel food can be initiated, and food operators can subsequently place the product on the EU market. 

EFSA said this will help food businesses to bring “innovative foods” to the EU market, while at the same time “guaranteeing their safety”.

“It concerns foods as diverse as insects, algae, new plant proteins, or traditional food from third countries, and will contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy.

“The principles underpinning the novel food regulation are that novel foods must be safe for consumers and properly labelled, so as not to mislead them, and if a novel food is intended to replace another food, it must not differ in a way that the consumption of the novel food would be nutritionally disadvantageous for the consumer.

“It is up to consumers to decide whether they want to eat insects or not.

“The use of insects as an alternate source of protein is not new, and insects are regularly eaten in many parts of the world.” 

EFSA concluded that consumption of the yellow mealworm may potentially lead to allergic reactions particularly where there are pre-existing allergies to crustaceans and dust mites. 

Additionally, allergens from insect feed (such as gluten) may end up in the insect that is consumed.

According to EFSA, food allergies represent an important public health problem, affecting approximately 2-4% of the adult population and up to 8–9% of children.

The EU rules on food labelling identify a list of 14 allergens that need to be labelled (eggs, milk, fish, crustaceans, etc) which allows people living with food allergies to be informed on whether products contain ingredients they are sensitive to.

There are currently 11 applications for insects that are subject to a safety evaluation by EFSA.

“Insects as food emerges as an especially relevant issue in the 21st century due to the rising cost of animal protein, food insecurity, environmental pressures, population growth, and increasing demand for protein among the middle classes,” an EFSA spokesperson said.

“Thus, alternative solutions to conventional livestock need to be found.

“The consumption of insects therefore contributes positively to the environment and to health and livelihoods.

“The environmental benefits from rearing insects for food are founded on the high feed conversion efficiency of insects, less greenhouse gas emissions, less use of water and arable lands, and the use of insect-based bio-conversion as a marketable solution for reducing food waste.”

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