The opinion was based on a novel food application submitted by Ÿnsect Netherlands (formerly Protifarm). The company wants to use frozen and freeze‐dried formulations of the lesser mealworm (either whole or in paste or powder form) as an ingredient in various food products such as cereal bars, pasta, meat imitates and bakery products.
Ÿnsect also wants to use the novel food as a food supplement in adults.
The EFSA panel noted that the true protein levels in Ÿnsect’s novel food were “overestimated when using the nitrogen‐to‐protein conversion factor of 6.25, due to the presence of non‐protein nitrogen from chitin”.
But, considering that, it concluded the ingredient is not nutritionally disadvantageous.
The 90‐day toxicity study submitted by Ÿnsect did not raise safety concerns, though EFSA said that the consumption of the novel food may induce “primary sensitisation and allergic reactions to lesser mealworm proteins” and may cause allergic reactions in subjects with allergy to crustaceans and dust mites.
Allergenicity aside, the EFSA panel concluded that the novel food is safe under the proposed uses and use levels.
The EFSA assessment will now have to be confirmed by the European Commission’s Health Directorate General, which will give the final authorisation for market approval in the European Union, before the product can go more widely on sale across the whole continent.
Nevertheless, Ÿnsect called EFSA’s provisional green light a “major step forward for the insect industry”.
With production already taking place in the Netherlands, Ÿnsect is “now ready to accelerate the commercialization of its products across new European markets”, it stated.
Ÿnsect believes insect protein is a possible solution to help tackle some of the major challenges of our time: feeding the world’s population, preserving resources and biodiversity, and fighting global warming.
Ÿnsect Netherlands said it submitted the application to EFSA with a view to expanding its activities in Europe, and has the infrastructure in place to expand production and distribution immediately once the European Commission’s green light is given.
Ÿnsect’s other protein, Molitor mealworms, were the first insect authorised by EFSA in January 2021, shortly before insect protein was then approved in feed for pigs and poultry.
Ÿnsect Human Nutrition & Health already sells ingredients using the lesser mealworm (branded AdalbaPro) that can be found in a variety of products across Europe, including Zirp in more than 800 Bila stores Austria, cereal bars and Issac shakes, and gourmet burgers made from beetles found in several Danish restaurants. The company is now on track to accelerate production across EU markets.
Research led by Maastricht University shows that the mealworm contains all nine essential amino acids, being efficiently digested in the human body and being proven to dramatically reduce cholesterol on studies on mice.
Ÿnsect further claims that purchase intent among health-conscious consumers in Western Europe is currently at 60%, supported by the fact that insect protein is a more natural, less processed alternative to the current offering on the market.
In a survey commissioned by Ÿnsect and conducted OnePoll in April 2022, over half of UK respondents (51%) revealed a willingness to consume insects once the environmental and health benefits had been explained. Moreover, 89% of the 2,149 UK adults surveyed who had already eaten insects or insect protein said they liked what they ate or would eat insects again.
“The recent assessment by EFSA that lesser mealworms are safe for human consumption is a significant step forward for the company’s expansion”, said Antoine Hubert, CEO, and co-founder of Ÿnsect. He added: “Mealworm protein offers the best of both worlds, as nutritionally beneficial as animal protein, but with a much lower environmental impact. Indeed the scientific community is increasingly rallying around the idea, with a 2022 report by the University of Helsinki suggesting that a diet incorporating large amounts of insect protein offers the optimum solution to reduce environmental impact by over 80% while offering high nutritional benefits to the consumer.”
Insect protein production is also extremely sustainable, claimed Ÿnsect. “Mealworm protein is the only one in the world available on the market able to combine not only performance and health but also naturalness and sustainability. Compared to traditional livestock, Ÿnsect uses 98% less land while significantly reducing the carbon and biodiversity footprints of protein production. This will open the world up to new food product development,” said Shankar Krishnamoorthy, EVP and Chief Development Officer at Ÿnsect.
The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) – the European umbrella organisation representing stakeholders active in the production of insects for food and feed - welcomed the EFSA’s opinion.
“Following last year’s positive outcomes, this opinion, the first on this insect species, represents another important step towards the wider commercialisation of edible insects in the EU,” it said.