Incorporating edible insects into diet: What does the future hold for mealworm and cricket-based food?
21 Oct 2022 --- Mealworms and crickets are edging closer to EU plates following the latest round of approvals, as commercialization of alternative products containing protein-packed insects is on the horizon in Europe. According to the insect umbrella organization backing the burgeoning industry, products could be available as soon as next year, unlocking a whole ranch of nutritional, sustainable food.
The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) welcomes the European Union Member States authorities’ green light to the draft implementing regulations from the European Commission, aiming to authorize the commercialization of frozen and freeze-dried formulations of the lesser mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus) and partially-defatted house cricket (Acheta domesticus).
“These two edible insect species are proposed to be used as an ingredient in several food products, among those, they may be used for bread, cereal and protein bars, pasta products, meat analogs and many more,” Alice Grassi, IPIFF communication manager tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
The favorable opinion from Member States will lead to the authorization of these products in the next few weeks.
As dietary habits are rapidly changing and the willingness of consumers to try new protein-rich products is increasing, edible insects are gaining more interest all over Europe, notes Grassi. Although increasing the western appetite for insects may still be a challenge.
“At first, European consumers might be intimidated by the novelty of these products and the fact that they have never tried them,” she explains. “We believe that consumer acceptance is and would be driven by a change in socio-cultural aspects, product demand and accessibility.”
Future food, including on restaurant menus, supermarket shelves and even online, will include insect-based products. They can be made to look like burgers, sausages and a plethora of other alternative protein analogs.
“The more edible insect products can be found in our supermarkets and restaurants, the more Europeans can discover different recipes and tastes in their diet and understand their environmental and nutritional benefits,” Grassi underscores.
“The novel food authorizations will also play a constructive role in shaping the market, facilitating access to insect-based products in EU countries,” she says.
Connected to the theme of sustainability, insects can contribute to reducing the burden of food waste, being fed with underused agri-food by-products like vegetables, fruits and starch origin, or food no longer destined for human consumption (e.g., unsold products from supermarkets and bakeries as well as discarded waste from the food manufacturing process).
“Thanks to their bioconversion properties, insects convert these ‘low-value’ materials into protein-rich and high-quality products, which are then reintroduced into the food chain,” Grassi explains.
“Thus, the local production of such food ingredients not only strengthens agri-food circularity - but also improves regional self-sufficiency.”
“Being produced from farmed insects, the sustainability aspect is given by its reduced environmental footprint and high efficiency in terms of water and land footprint,” she continues.
Because of the vertical farming techniques implemented, insect farming requires less arable land as insect farmers use ‘crates’ aligned vertically to rear their insects. Most commonly, farmed species can absorb the water they need from their substrates.
Companies who submitted the applications
Two edible insects’ applications as Novel Food have been submitted by Ynsect Netherlands (formerly Protifarm) and Vietnam-based company Cricket One.
As part of the Novel Food procedures, these two applications received a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority in May (for Cricket One) and in July (for Ynsect Netherlands).
The latest approval of the house cricket represents another step toward the authorization of additional products derived from this edible insect species, following the first Novel Food authorization on house cricket in March.
In the case of lesser mealworms, this decision would lead to the first Novel Food authorization of this insect food product.
“According to the Novel Food procedures, the implementing acts are expected to be adopted before the end of the year. The authorizations then will give the right to the producer to commercialize the products on the European market.”
“Following this green light, the draft of the implementing regulations will need to be adopted by the European Commission’s College of Commissioners. After this approval, the implementing regulations will become an actual authorization,” Grassi concludes.
Ÿnsect is building the world’s largest insect farm scheduled to open at the end of the year. The French company forecasts a significant increase in demand for insects as a healthy alternative to meat.
By Gaynor Selby
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