Insects as novel food: publication of a first EFSA opinion

Insects are presented as an effective source of nutrients for the future. However, they are considered as novel food and should be consequently authorized before their entry in the European Union market. Among these insects, the yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor larva) is the first which has been evaluated by EFSA following a novel food application. EFSA has recognized that this insect larva was safe under the proposed uses and use levels.

The dried Tenebrio molitor larva contains between 56 and 61% protein and 25-30% fat. It is proposed to be used in various foodstuffs, including snacks, protein products for sportspeople, biscuits, legume-based dishes and pasta-based dishes. One question in these novel food applications on insects is related to the toxicity of such ingredients. The applicant provided data showing the lack of genotoxicity. Sub-acute toxicity and sub-chronic toxicity have been also evaluated and did not show any safety concern. However, EFSA highlighted the risk of de novo sensitization and allergic reactions, notably in subjects with allergy to crustaceans and dust mites.

This first EFSA opinion on insect provides useful information on the European requirements for such ingredients, and opens the possibility to develop the business of insects in Europe.

EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens),Turck D, Castenmiller J, De Henauw S, Hirsch-Ernst KI, Kearney J, Maciuk A, Mangelsdorf I, McArdleHJ, Naska A, Pelaez C, Pentieva K, Siani A, Thies F, Tsabouri S, Vinceti M, Cubadda F, Frenzel T,Heinonen M, Marchelli R, Neuh€auser-Berthold M, Poulsen M, Prieto Maradona M, Schlatter JR, vanLoveren H, Ververis E and Knutsen HK, 2021. Scientic Opinion on the safety of dried yellowmealworm (Tenebrio molitor larva) as a novel food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. EFSAJournal 2021;19(1) :6343.

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