15 Jan 21 Bugs on the menu? EFS approves yellow mealworms as safe for consumption
Yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) have crossed a significant regulatory hurdle as Europe’s first insect to be identified as safe for consumption, which may hasten similar progress for other species and their related product applications.
This follows a positive safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) of an application from Agronutris, a French insect-based protein producer. Ultimately, it will be EU policymakers in Brussels and capitals who determine if insects should be authorized for the European dinner plate.
“This green light from the Parma-based agency [Italy] is important not only because it is the first novel food opinion on edible insects – but also because it will pave the way for other applications that are in the pipeline,” Constantin Muraru, communication and research manager at the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), told FoodIngredientsFirst.
Bugs as a sustainable food source
As of this month, over 20 applications have been submitted for the authorisation of insects as a novel food.
“Several species are covered [in these applications], including Acheta domesticus (house cricket), Alphitobius diaperinus (lesser mealworm), Gryllodes sigillatus (banded crickets), Hermetia illucens (black soldier fly), Locusta migratoria (migratory locust), Tenebrio molitor (yellow mealworm) and Apis mellifera male pupae (honey bee drone brood),” said Muraru.
“The reason behind having a higher number of applications – in contrast to the number of species – is because each case is focused on particular food applications. For instance, the applicant has to specify the various uses of the insect covered by the application.”
Since January 1, 2018, EFSA has received 156 Novel Food applications. This comprises 63 in 2018, 48 in 2019 and 45 in 2020. At present, 81 are under risk assessment. These include herbal products derived from plants, algae-based foods, and non-indigenous fruits in addition to an array of edible insect varieties.
All novel food applications are first sent to the European Commission, who processes them, and then once deemed valid they undergo a risk assessment by EFSA.
“The EFSA has nine months to carry out this risk assessment although the clock may be stopped at any time if follow-up information or data is required from the applicant,” a spokesperson of the organization said.
“Novel food applications are so varied that we need many types of scientific expertise to assess them [against various benchmarks] – nutrition, toxicology, chemistry and microbiology to name a few….