The EU has approved the sale of dried yellow mealworm as a “novel food”. This is the first EU-wide approval of insects for human consumption. Approval from the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed earlier this week allows beetle larvae Tenebrio Molitor to use as a whole, dried insect in snacks or as a food ingredient. French insect farming company Agronutris, which submitted the novel food application in 2018, is now the first to be officially approved to sell insects for food in the EU.
The authorization– one of the last steps in the procedure for the authorization of a novel food – follows a statement published in January by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), according to which dried yellow mealworm products are safe for human consumption in the uses and quantities proposed by Agronutris. The company now has a five-year exclusivity to market dried yellow mealworm in Europe.
The use of insects as an alternative source of protein is not new and is regularly eaten in Europe and many other parts of the world, the Commission stressed. A transition period will allow food business operators to continue placing whole insects on the market under certain conditions.
The Commission expects to adopt a regulation in the coming weeks that will allow dried yellow mealworm to be used as a food. Due to possible allergy problems, especially in people with pre-existing allergies to crustaceans and house dust mites, special labeling is required for such foods.
There are currently 11 applications pending for insects and are subject to a safety assessment by Efsa. Insects for food are a niche market in the EU, but the Commission said the “high feed conversion efficiency of insects” means lower greenhouse gas emissions, less water and farmland use and the fact that insect-based bioconversion reduces food waste. compared to other sources of protein such as those from farm animals.