The potential for insect protein as an economically viable option for both human consumption and animal feed is now real, and would sit within current EU regulations, according to delegates at the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum keynote seminar on science and policy in food and agriculture earlier this week.
Dr Rick Mumford, director of science at the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), said his organisation had conducted “life-cycle analysis” of insect protein, and it had proven to be economically viable in many cases.
“Where we get our protein in the future is a massive challenge to us. A huge amount of animal feed is imported, making it potentially one of the weakest food security links we have,” he said.
“Of course, commodity prices change, so you can only do a snap-shot comparison, but our analysis finds insect protein often to be very viable when compared with soya.”
Mumford said FERA was currently engaged in two insect-related projects – one funded in the UK, and a second led by a pan-European Commission consortium.
“EU projects tend to be very inter-disciplinary. The current one is looking at everything from insect rearing, nutritional values and safety, through to processing and product trials.
“Public perception about eating insects is an aspect, too. It’s important to engage with them from the beginning.”
Also at the seminar, Professor Peter Gregory, chair for the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), said the current EU regulation on novel foods was “perfectly capable” of dealing with any new products containing insect protein.
“There may be some government-led guidance, but it ultimately simply rests on a company or individual coming forward with a proposal to use insects in human food,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Penny Bramwell, director of science, evidence and research at the Food Standards Agency, said she was keeping a “watching brief” on the latest research around insect protein.
Last autumn, the European Food Safety Authority released a study into the use of insects in food and animal feed.
It concluded that risks to human and animal health were down to how the insects were reared and processed.
Edible insects will be up for debate at Food Manufacture’s one-day innovation conference – New Frontiers in Food and Drink 2016 – in central London on Thursday March 17.
Book now to take advantage of the early bird ticket price offer, which expires in just two days’ time (January 31).