The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has announced its opinion on the production and consumption of insects as food and feed.
The opinion is in the format of a risk profile and presents potential biological and chemical hazards, as well as allergenicity and environmental hazards associated with farmed insects used as food and feed, and takes the whole supply chain into account.
It addresses the occurrence of these hazards in non-processed insects, grown on different substrate categories, in comparison to the occurrence of these hazards in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin.
When currently allowed feed materials are used as substrate to feed insects, the possible occurrence of microbiological hazards is expected to be comparable to their occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin.
The possible occurrence of prions in non-processed insects will depend on whether the substrate includes protein of human or ruminant origin. Data on transfer of chemical contaminants from different substrates to the insects are very limited. Substrates like kitchen waste, human and animal manure are also considered and hazards from insects fed on these substrates need to be specifically assessed.
It is concluded that for both biological and chemical hazards, the specific production methods, the substrate used, the stage of harvest, the insect species and developmental stage, as well as the methods for further processing, will all have an impact on the occurrence and levels of biological and chemical contaminants in food and feed products derived from insects. Hazards related to the environment are expected to be comparable to other animal production systems.
The opinion also identifies the lack of knowledge related to possible hazards when insects are used as food and feed and notes that there are no systematically collected data on animal and human consumption of insects. Studies on the occurrence of microbial pathogens of vertebrates as well as published data on hazardous chemicals in reared insects are scarce.
EFSA recommends further research for better assessment of microbiological and chemical risks from insects as food and feed including studies on the occurrence of hazards when using particular substrates, like food waste and manure.
The full opinion can be found here.