It seems increasingly likely that certain types of worms could be an amazing solution to our plastic problem — and that we may eat them and their cousins afterwards.

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a risk profile to address the potential biological, chemical and environmental hazards as well as allergenicity associated with the use of farmed insects as food and feed.

The production methods, what the insects are fed (substrate), the insects’ life stage at harvest, and the species determine the presence of biological and chemical hazards in food and feed products derived from insects. The risks of specific insects and food safety strategies will therefore need to be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the EFSA Scientific Committee — though previous research has found that those who are allergic to shellfish are most likely also allergic to eating insects, since they are all arthropods.

There is limited data available on the transfer of chemical contaminants from different types of substrate to insects. EFSA calls for further research on specific substrates, the occurrence of microbial pathogens of vertebrates, and hazardous chemicals in reared insects.

Insects are currently a niche food market in the European Union (EU), but EFSA explains they may have important environmental, economic, and food security benefits, particularly as a source of protein. The organization reports that houseflies, mealworms, crickets, and silkworms seem to have the greatest potential for use as food and/or feed in the EU. Another study co-financed by EFSA is investigating the feasibility of using insect protein for feed.

 

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