Eating insects poses no special risks for humans

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Insect food
Insect food

Related tags Agriculture

Edible insects pose no special risks to human health – when consumed directly or used as stock feed – according to a new risk assessment from the European food safety watchdog.

Non-processed insects, fed with approved feed materials, pose no special microbiological hazards above those associated with other non-processed protein sources, ruled the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) in a long awaited judgement.

‘Microbiological hazards’

“When currently allowed feed materials are used as substrate to feed insects, the possible occurrence of microbiological hazards is expected to be comparable to their occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin,”​ concluded EFSA scientists.

Up to 2.5bn people eat insects every day, according to the United Nations. Rearing and harvesting insects have long been regarded as an increasing important protein source for human and their stock, as the world struggles with rising population – project to reach 9bn by 2050 – and declining food production resources.

EFSA scientists were tasked with assessing the potential biological and chemical hazards, together with allergenicity and environmental hazards linked to farmed insects used in food and feed. Probing the risks throughout the entire whole food chain – from farming to the final product – was a key part of the scientists’ mission.

‘Insect food’

Calling for more research, the scientists noted: “The specific production methods, the substrate used, the stage of harvest, the insect species, as well as the methods used for further processing will all have an impact on the possible presence of biological and chemical contaminants in insect food and feed products.”

Further research was needed to better assess the microbiological and chemical risks from insects as food and feed including studies on the occurrence of hazards when using particular substrates, like food waste and manure, was recommended.

The environmental risk of insect farming was expected to be comparable to other animal production systems. Existing waste management strategies should be capable of coping with managing waste from insect production.

Meanwhile, the safe use of insects will take centre stage at the Food Manufacture Group’s one-day food and drink innovation conference at etc. venues St Pauls in central London on Thursday March 17, 2016.

Global insect expert Professor Arnold van Huis, form Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, will probe the potential of insects through the entire food chain.

Other topics will include: identifying tomorrow’s ground breaking new products, personalised nutrition and new product development, targeting new markets and new routes to market.

For more information – including details of our early bird discounted ticket price offer – click here.

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