Human insect protein consumption has received a further boost, following the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) positive assessment of Alphitobius diaperinus, also known as the lesser mealworm.
The lesser mealworm is the fourth insect to receive such an assessment, indicating it is safe for humans to eat. The EFSA judgement will now need to be confirmed by the European Commission, and earn the endorsement of EU member states, before going on sale across the continent.
Insect protein is gaining attention across the world, with the EFSA first authorising Molitor mealworms for human consumption in January 2021, and shortly after approving insect protein in feed for pigs and poultry.
Meanwhile in the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said it will allow products containing edible insects to remain on the market while they undergo the Novel Foods authorisation process.
This plan was made public alongside the recent launch of a public consultation into edible insects.
On the decision, FSA Policy Director Rebecca Sudworth, said: “Edible insect products will need to pass through the full authorisation process in Great Britain to remain on the market, so we encourage businesses to talk to us about getting their applications in and the support we can provide through the process.
“We want anyone with an interest in edible insects, particularly trade organisations and food businesses, to have their voice heard through our consultation.”
Much of the fanfare around insects comes because of the quality of the protein. Research from Maastricht University shows insect protein is as beneficial as milk protein, which is often viewed as being the ‘gold standard’.
According to the study, insect protein is just as easily digested and absorbed, and has the same ability to stimulate muscle production as the more familiar milk protein.
Additionally, insect protein is associated with dramatically reduced resource consumption, compared with more traditional animal protein.
These benefits are already catching the eye of consumers. According to data compiled on behalf of insect protein producer Ÿnsect, around 51% of Brits report being willing to try insect protein.
Some 76% also said they would like to see insect protein incorporated more widely into the market.
The positive attention is welcome news from those in the industry. Shankar Krishnamoorthy, Ÿnsect EVP and Chief Development Officer, said: “Mealworm protein is the only one in the world available on the market able to combine not only performance and health but also naturalness and sustainability.
“Compared to traditional livestock, Ÿnsect uses 98% less land while significantly reducing the carbon and biodiversity footprints of protein production. Insect protein is not only more sustainable but will open the world up to a new way of food product development that is efficient, nutritious and able to positively impact the food chain at multiple points.”
Elsewhere, UK Edible Insect Association Managing Director Dr Nick Rousseau, said:”Our sector has been farming insects and developing exciting, innovative new food products in the UK for many years and the sector only continues to grow.
“Research from our members’ extensive trials and user testing show that edible insect products, when professionally farmed and manufactured, offer the environmentally concerned consumer nutritious, tasty, and safe food products that can meet a significant proportion of their protein needs.
“The support of the FSA will make a huge difference to our ability to prove ourselves in the market.”
Insects aren’t the only ingredients being hailed as the future of sustainable food. Learn about others with this upcoming Trends Panel: