Insect protein, great idea but what are the risks?

By 13. October 2015Blog, Risk Management

We’ve blogged about it a few times on this site over the last 3 years (Bugs a la carte, Mealworm nuggets anyone?, Fly reared steak anyone?, Protein, where will you get yours from? Bugs?). The world is facing a protein shortage and insect protein could help fill that gap, either directly as a food source for us, or as a feed for animals such as cows. But what are the risks?

This is what the European Food Safety Authority have been trying to address in a publication called “Risk profile related to production and consumption of insects as food and feed”. So what are the risks? Well, the biggest effort really needs to focus on what the insects are given as their food source. Think about it, how did mad cow disease come about?  Although the exact origin remains unknown, it is thought the practise of feeding remains of animals to other animals certainly played a large role in what happened.

Therefore, can maggots be fed on animal remains? That depends on where the remains come from. What they say is that if insects are fed “substrates” already approved as food sources for other animals then the biological and chemical risks should be comparable.  But one advantage that maggots would have over animal sources of protein is the type of substrates that they could be fed on.

What the report does say is that more research is needed into using food sources such as food waste and manure as the feed source. This may sound like a cop out to some people, but I agree wholeheartedly. Insect protein has great potential, but we should make sure it is produced in a safe way. Once bitten twice shy, and so we should be.

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