EU grants Novel Food authorizations to house cricket, yellow mealworms

EUROPE – The European Union has granted Novel Food authorizations to house crickets (Acheta domesticus) and yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) following a three-year evaluation process that deemed them safe for human consumption.

The two insect species have been approved as high protein food ingredients across a broad range of European Food and Beverage (F&B) platforms, including multigrain bread rolls, dried pasta products, “beer-like” alcoholic beverages and chocolate confectionery.

This advancement is considered timely as the global demand for diversified alternative protein sources continues to balloon.

“As our dietary habits are rapidly changing and the willingness of consumers to try new protein-rich products is increasing, edible insects are gaining more and more interest all over Europe,” Alice Grassi, Communication Manager at the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), told FoodIngredientsFirst.

She noted that consumer’s acceptance is and will be driven by a change in sociocultural aspects and product demand. Alice adds that the novel food authorizations will also play a constructive role in shaping the market, facilitating access to insect-based products in EU countries.

Plethora of nutritious food and beverage applications

In addition to proteins, insects contain vitamins, minerals, fibers and healthy fatty acids, such as omega 6 and omega 3.

An array of nutritional benefits

IPIFF underscores that the incorporation of edible insects into consumers’ dietary habits brings high-quality proteins and diverse nutrients that are beneficial for human metabolism and overall health.

“Insects indeed offer more than proteins – they contain vitamins, minerals, fibers and healthy fatty acids, such as omega 6 and omega 3. In addition, there is increasing scientific evidence on the successful incorporation of insect-based ingredients into diverse food products, confirming the versatility of such ingredients,” said Maximilian Beiter, Regulatory Affairs Manager at IPIFF.

Alice also noted that diets which incorporate edible insects bring high-quality proteins and diverse nutrients that are beneficial for human metabolism and overall health.

House crickets and yellow mealworms are now authorized in the EU for sale in frozen, dried and powder forms.

Moreover, they are permitted to be added to bread, cereal bars, biscuits, pasta, soups, vegetable-based dishes, pizza, corn flour-based snacks, “beer-like” beverages, alcoholic drink mixes, sauces, meat alternatives, meat products, chocolate confectionery and frozen fermented milk-based products.

The applicability of insect-based ingredients also extends to protein isolates for sports nutrition. US researchers at West Virginia University are currently laying the groundwork for developing efficient protein isolation techniques for crickets, locusts and silkworms.

Research by the IPIFF estimates that nine million people in the EU ate insect products in 2019 – just two per cent of the population. However, with consumers increasingly concerned about the planet, insect appeal has seen a growing interest, with the insect protein market estimated to potentially be worth up to US$8 billion by 2030.

The edible insect pipeline is boosted by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approvals made last year – first for yellow mealworms, followed by migratory locusts.

Until 2018, insects weren’t considered foodstuffs and weren’t covered by EU regulations. That changed with the EU’s Novel Food Directive, which now allows makers of insect-based foodstuffs to commercialize their products across the EU.

Around 290 start-ups now produce a diverse range of insect-based foods, as reported by Geographical.

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