Population growth is unceasing. According to the FAO, the global population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050¹, generating a massive increase in food production and huge impacts on earth's environment and food production. Heavy demand for protein-based foods will generate an increase in production with significant consequences for global warming. In 2015, all United Nations Member States agreed on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)² to address the global warming challenge adding combating hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture as SDG no. 2.
Which demands the question ‘How?’, when the global protein ingredients market (USD 29.42 billion in 2018)³ is expected to see a CAGR of 7.5% from 2019 to 2025.
Insects – is one answer. An alternative and more sustainable solution to meat (protein) production is insects. Their farming and production are comparatively environmentally friendly as they generate fewer greenhouse gases and use less water.
In addition, the production and commercialization of insects has also been broadened to the production of insects as feed for animals.
The consumption of insects is a common habit; they are consumed by over 2 billion people in 80% of countries around the globe4. However, there is still resistance in many countries where the idea of eating insects arouses disgust and apprehension. Research into consumer attitudes has revealed that taste, appearance, safety, and quality were identified as the factors that were most likely to influence diners’ willingness to try eating insects.
The Michelin Guide, one of the most renowned magazines for food and restaurants, examined this hot topic in one article5 highlighting the pros and cons eating insects. For the curious reader who wants to try, the article mentions Grub Kitchen, the first insect-based restaurant in United Kingdom. The menu includes a variety of dishes such as mealworm hummus and cricket seasoned with chili. In the US, the “Bug Chef” David George Gordon published The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook, a collection of recipes and ideas on how to cook insects, revealing how it is easy to include bugs in everyday dietary consumption.
Although in many countries like Africa it is common to eat insect-based snacks, resistance to entomophagy elsewhere is not the only challenge that insect producers are facing. They are urging authorities to provide guidance and regulations for the production and sale of insects in the EU.
On May 27, 2019, in Copenhagen the IPIFF (International Platform of Insects for food and feed) and DIN (Danish Insect Network) jointly organized a workshop to present the IPIFF Guide on Good Hygiene Practices to give an answer to this need6. Insects and their preparation are considered as novel food under regulation (EU) 2015/2283 and can be lawfully marketed within the EU, but there is still a certain concern for some gaps in regulation for using insects as food and feed.
On August 13, 2019, IPIFF published an updated version of the “Briefing paper on the provisions relevant to the commercialization of insect-based products intended for human consumption in the EU”. The intention is to give more guidance on the submission of the first novel applications and the related assessment. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be in charge of evaluating and running assessments on all requests for acceptance of insects as novel foods; the first authorizations for insects as novel food in the European Union are expected in 2020.
Also, there is a call to complement the existing Regulation (EC) No 853/20048 including insects as food.
There is still some way to go, especially for consumption resistance, this is why it is critical for institutions to fill in the regulatory gaps: insect production produces fewer greenhouse gases, requires less water and reduces organic waste than traditional protein-based foods.