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Efsa deems yellow mealworms safe for human consumption

The approval would lead the sale of food products derived from insects in EU

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has deemed yellow mealworms safe for human consumption, paving the way for insect-derived food products to be sold across Europe. The announcement marks a significant step for the future of insect-based food, as the EFSA’s scientific advice supports EU national decision makers who authorise the products for the European market.

EU-wide approval would mean insect-based biscuits and burgers could appear on shelves across Europe, as well as enable mass production. Yellow mealworms mark the first insect to be approved for human consumption, following a safety evaluation by EFSA based on an application from French insect farmer Micronutris. The "novel food regulation" came into force in 2018, and EFSA has since received a large volume of applications for insects including fresh and dried adult crickets, locusts and litter beetles.

Over the last few years, the novelty of using insects in food has led to high interest in the West, due to changing consumer attitudes and the environmental and economic benefits associated with them. Cited by The Guardian, Ermolaos Ververis, a scientific officer at the agency, said: “This first EFSA risk assessment of an insect as novel food can pave the way for the first EU-wide approval. Our risk evaluation is a decisive and necessary step in the regulation of novel foods by supporting policymakers in the EU in making science-based decisions and ensuring the safety of consumers”.

Insect-based products are currently prohibited from sale in countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain and without approval from the EFSA, they face being banned elsewhere on the continent too. While the UK, Netherlands and Denmark permit the use of insect in foods, the 2018 novel food authorisation law has meant mass production has been held back, as companies wait upon a final decision. 

The EU’s member states have seven months to counter a proposal for authorisation, following the publication of EFSA’s opinion, which will then go to a vote. Despite heralding a source of protein, EFSA scientists recommend that those with allergies to crustaceans and dustmites should not eat insect-derived product as it could trigger an allergic reaction.

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EFA News - European Food Agency