Nutrition: grill plate, but different: insects in food

Insects have been eaten by people around the world for thousands of years.

Nutrition: grill plate, but different: insects in food

Insects have been eaten by people around the world for thousands of years. In the European Union, they are considered novel foods. In this country, consumers oscillate between curiosity and disgust. After mealworms and locusts, house crickets and larvae of the grain mold beetle can now also be processed in food.

What exactly is allowed now?

Every novel food must be approved by the EU. According to an implementing regulation, only the Vietnamese company Cricket One is allowed to sell a partially defatted powder from the house cricket (Acheta domesticus) in the EU from Tuesday. The animal, also known as cricket, had previously been included in the list of novel foods following the analysis of scientific studies. From Thursday onwards, larvae of the grain mold beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus) can also be processed. Similar rules have existed for some time for locusts and larvae of the flour beetle (Tenebrio molitor, yellow mealworm).

In which foods can the house cricket occur?

In all sorts. Their powder can now be found in bread and rolls, biscuits and crackers, baking mixes and pasta, sauces and soups, meat and milk substitutes, potato products and chocolate, among other things. The products may then not be labeled as vegan or vegetarian.

Will this be widely available soon?

Time will tell. So far, the range of foods with insects is "really a very, very small niche market," explains food chemist Armin Valet from the Hamburg Consumer Center. In this country, only a few products with small amounts of insects are currently available - such as bars or pasta. That insect powder will be mixed into biscuits or flour is "really a long way off," says Valet.

Is it possible to eat insects without knowing it?

No, because insects must be labeled on the products. "We are not aware that it is somehow mixed in," says consumer advocate Valet. The EU Commission makes it clear: "Everyone can decide for themselves whether or not they buy food made from or with insects." According to the regulation, the list of ingredients must include: "Acheta domesticus (house cricket, house cricket), frozen" or "Powder from larvae of Alphitobius diaperinus (grain mold beetle)". Valet, on the other hand, calls for clear labeling on the packaging "and in a way that is easy for everyone to understand, for example "biscuits with insects" or "pasta with insects"".

What should allergy sufferers pay attention to?

As with many other foods, insect powder could also trigger reactions in rare cases - for example in people who are allergic to crustaceans, molluscs and house dust mites. Corresponding information must be recorded in the immediate vicinity of the list of ingredients. The chitin in the exoskeleton of insects, for example, can trigger allergic reactions. Hardly digestible fiber is also found in shellfish and mushrooms. After evaluating various studies, the European Food Safety Authority has come to the conclusion: House cricket powder in the suggested quantities is safe.

What are the advantages of adding insect repellent?

So far, consumer advocate Valet has not seen a commercial incentive. "Products with insect flour are sometimes sold at significantly higher prices," he told the German Press Agency. But if it is cheaper for companies at some point in the future, care must be taken not to mislead consumers.

How nutritious are insects?

More than 1900 species are consumed worldwide. In various studies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has found them to be a highly nutritious and healthy food source, with high levels of fat, protein, vitamins, fiber and minerals. According to the Federal Consumer Association, their protein content is similar to beef, pork or turkey meat, but varies depending on the type of insect.

What about sustainability?

According to the environmental organization WWF, the ecological balance is significantly better than that of beef, pork and chicken. "Compared to meat, the production of insects requires significantly less agricultural land," says the WWF. Compared to chicken, it is about 50 percent less. According to the FAO, crickets require about one-twelfth the amount of feed compared to cattle to produce the same amount of protein. Insect farming also emits fewer greenhouse gases. The German consumer centers also calculate that the edible proportion of insects at 80 percent is significantly higher than, for example, beef (40 percent).

Do insects from nature end up on the plate?

no Nobody has to worry that wild animals will end up in the products. According to the consumer advice centers, edible insects that are offered in the German food trade come exclusively from controlled rearing. "So far there are no housing regulations for insects in Germany," write the consumer advocates. There is a need for clarification about space, the use of medicines or killing as gently as possible.