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Edible Insects Are Coming to Europe (with a Few Restrictions)

edible insects yellow melworm europe
Yellow mealworm is the first edible insect approved for human consumption by the EU. Credit: Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Edible insect food products were recently approved for consumption in Europe, but not without a few restrictions. You might be shocked at the prospect of eating bugs, and even more confused at the high demand for insect based food products–but–the unusual cuisine has become a hit in a niche market as a rich source of protein and other nutrients.

Consumers are on the hunt for alternatives to meat and dairy products, and insects appear to be an enticing answer. Excitement is brewing after the EU’s recent approval dried yellow mealworm developed by French-based biotech Agronutris, which got the green light to be eaten by themselves or as an ingredient biscuits, smoothies, or pasta products.

Insects appeal to sustainability-minded consumers because of the drastically reduced strain they place on resources. Insects produce 10 to 100 times less greenhouse gases than their animal counterparts. The introduction of insect food products will not be without its restrictions, however: the EU is placing strict guidelines on exactly what the insects themselves can be fed.

Think the trend has no future? Statisticians would have to disagree with you: experts predict that the products nutrients and sustainability combination will make edible insects an enduring staple of many European diets, from nine million in 2019 to 390 million by 2030, according to predictions.

EU approves edible insects as Novel Food

The EU has approved insects as a “Novel Food,” which they define as being “food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997, when the first Regulation on novel food came into force.” they also contextualized insects relationship to the category of Novel Food:

“Although there is anecdotal evidence of insects consumed as food in the past, no Member State has confirmed human consumption to a significant degree prior to 15 May 1997 for any insect species.”

Those in the industry see the approval of the yellow mealworm as a Novel Food as a big positive for the move to center edible insects, and a gateway for more diverse approvals.

“The EU approval of the yellow mealworm as a novel food was a huge step forward for the industry,” says Eric Archambeau, co-founder and Partner at agri-food tech investor firm Astanor Ventures.

“It shows the superior nutritional value of the mealworm and opens the doors towards further approvals. The approval only concerns the whole insect at the moment, but it paves the way for approval of more products such as defatted insect protein, which represents a huge market for insect-derived products.”

“The insect-based products will be interesting for athletes, flexitarians, and the older population,” said Cédric Auriol, a co-founder of Argonutris, who developed the yellow mealworm product.


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