Share article:
Share article:

EU agency greenlights food products containing mealworms

Burgers made from mealworm larvae. © Marius Wenk/Wikimedia

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has produced its first ever complete assessment of the safety of a food product derived from insects.

The agency offers its assessments as an opinion, leaving it up to the EU to decide whether to put the development into practice.

According to the assessment published yesterday, the insect source in question – dried mealworm larvae (Tenebrio molitor) – is safe for human consumption in either of its two forms, either as a whole dried insect or as a powder.

The mealworm consists of three main ingredients: protein, fat and fibre in the form of chitin in the exoskeleton. And while protein is an important component, the exact percentage is generally exaggerated as the normal process for measuring protein levels read the chitin as protein, whereas it is indigestible.

The Panel notes that considering the composition of the NF [novel food] and the proposed conditions of use, the consumption of the NF is not nutritionally disadvantageous,” the assessment concludes.

The submitted toxicity studies from the literature did not raise safety concerns. The Panel considers that the consumption of the NF may induce primary sensitisation and allergic reactions to yellow mealworm proteins and may cause allergic reactions in subjects with allergy to crustaceans and dust mites.”

And having said that, the panel decides that the novel food is safe.

The EU’s Novel Food regulation came into effect on 1 January 2018. Since then the agency has received a variety of applications for assessment, including foods derived from plants, from seaweed, from herbs and fruits, as well as insect protein.

Edible insects are not, however, novel food when seen on a global scale. In most parts of the world, insects form a greater or lesser part of the diet, ranging from bees, beetles and butterflies to locusts, crickets and the appetisingly-named green stinkbug.

And while the practice may be novel to most parts of Europe, the same could also at one time have been said for bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, maize and rice.

However the process for obtaining authorisation for the production of a novel food is cumbersome, as Dr Helle Knutsen, a member of the EFSA expert panel on nutrition explained.

Novel food applications are so varied that we need many types of scientific expertise to assess them: nutrition, toxicology, chemistry and microbiology to name a few. The working group composition reflects this and together our scientists form an experienced multi-disciplinary group.”

The fiat given now by the agency will likely not mean long lines at the supermarket of people looking for their first mealworm pancakes, pies or puddings, said Giovanni Sogari, a social and consumer researcher at the University of Parma in Italy.

There are cognitive reasons derived from our social and cultural experiences, the so-called ‘yuck factor’, that make the thought of eating insects repellent to many Europeans. With time and exposure such attitudes can change.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Belgium’s investment funds total 260 billion euros in assets
Belgium’s funds industry grew by 5.3% (13 billion euros) in the second quarter of this year, bringing investment funds available to the public to ...
Brussels to Luxembourg by train in two hours soon possible
The fastest train ride between Brussels and Luxembourg currently takes almost three hours, but that could be slashed to about two hours thanks to the ...
Over 80,000 companies in Belgium non-compliant with anti-money laundering meassures
Over 80,000 companies and non-profits in Belgium are still not compliant with the Ultimate Business Owner (UBO) register, which is required of them ...
Increase in tax exemption for donations in Belgium fails to meet expectations
The increase from 45% to 60% in the tax exemption for donations, decided by the former federal government in June 2020, has cost Belgium more than ...
Sex workers in Belgium to get more social rights protection
The social rights of sex workers will soon be better protected in Belgium, Belga News Agency reports. The Council of Ministers has approved a draft ...
Belgian firms sent almost 266 billion euros to tax havens last year
Hundreds of Belgian firms sent close to 266 billion euros to tax havens last year, De Tijd reported on Saturday. Any Belgian individual or firm ...
Belgian investigator wins prestigious US prize
Olivier Hardy, an investigator with the federal police’s anti-terrorist unit in Brussels, DR3, received on Friday a "Top Cop" prize in Washington for ...
Pegasus Project: European Parliament awards journalism prize to investigation of use of spyware
The Daphne Caruana Prize for Journalism was awarded on Thursday to the journalists from the Pegasus Project coordinated by the Forbidden Stories ...
Belgians can now test their knowledge of driving rules and win prizes
The Walloon Road Safety Agency (AWSR) launched on Friday a quiz to allow the general public to test their knowledge of the highway code. Last year, ...
600 extras wanted for film about Belgian ‘Porn King’ and notorious Antwerp nightclub
A Belgian movie telling the story of a notorious Antwerp nightclub with connections to a Belgian 'Porn King' is looking for 600 extras at the end of ...
Namur Marathon relaunches after two years on hold
The next edition of the Namur Marathon will take place on April 24, 2022, its organisers announced on Friday, as they also opened registrations. ...
Lidl goes on strike: Half of supermarkets in Belgium closes on Saturday
One in two Lidl shops remained closed on Saturday morning, Lidl spokeswoman Isabelle Colbrandt said. Staff have been on strike for several days to ...