UK – Following the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), there has been a lot of uncertainty around the edible insects market regulations in the UK.
In 2015 the EU established that insects are a novel food, and each species and food product category require approval following the Novel Food EU law.
In 2018, the Novel Food regulation was updated to include whole edible insects within the framework for the first time – meaning Novel Food approval is required. However, a transition period was allotted for products already on sale to provide the industry time to move to compliance and submit their Novel Food dossiers.
When the UK left the EU, it carried over the regulations on sale of edible insects which stipulated that unless covered by transitional measures, only edible insects authorized by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) would be placed on market as from 1 January 2021.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency has however established a grace period plan that will see products containing edible insects remain on the market while they undergo the Novel Foods authorization process to assess safety.
The plan, detailed in a public consultation, aims to deliver ‘clarity’ to the British edible insect industry. The FSA said it is ‘keen’ to bring forward necessary legal changes ‘as soon as possible’.
According to the proposal, edible insects that were already being sold in the EU or UK before 1 January 2018 and were the subject of an application to the EU for authorization as a novel food by 1 January 2019, will be permitted to remain on sale.
However, for the product to remain on the market, additional applications for authorization must be made to the FSA or FSS by 31 December 2023.
“Our proposals will help businesses that have been affected by the uncertainty around insects for human consumption since the end of December 2020.
“Edible insect products will need to pass through the full authorization 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,” said Rebecca Sudworth, FSA Policy Director.
According to a generalized risk assessment conducted by the FSA and FSS to support the consultation, the safety risks associated with edible insect products are ’low’, provided appropriate measures are in place such as hygiene standards during rearing of the insects to avoid contamination, heat treatment, and labelling on allergy risks.
“We are totally committed to only safe food products being on the market for UK consumers,” Dr Nick Rousseau, Managing Director, UK Edible Insect Association, told Food Navigator.
However, he stressed, it is imperative to speed the authorization process and allow the edible insect industry to flourish in the UK.
“We face the risk to humanity of climate change if we do not find more sustainable food options and the Government seems to have its emphasis wrong,” he said.