Locusts and larvae: the EU approved the use of insects as food

For thousands of years, locusts have disrupted the food supply of humanity by gobbling up crops. But the European Union can change that. Now locusts are being served.

On Friday, the European Commission added locusta migratoria, the most common locust species, to the list of foods allowed for sale in the European Union. The insects will be considered a “new food” when sold frozen, dried and powdered, the EU executive announced.

“They are intended to be sold as a snack or food ingredient in a number of foods,” the European Commission said in a statement. “In frozen and dried form, the legs and wings must be removed by the operator of the food establishment to reduce the risk of intestinal constipation.”

The decision, made after an appeal from a Dutch locust and other insect breeding firm, is part of the European Union’s changing approach to insect-based foods.

In June, the European Commission added the dried larvae of the yellow mealworm beetle Tenebrio molitor to its list of permitted foods. The larvae may be “used as a whole dried insect in snack foods and as a food ingredient in a number of foods whose target audience is the general population.”

These two insects were added to the list after being supported by the European Food Safety Authority. EFSA also recently supported whole house crickets, noting that the product is “not nutritionally adverse,” although crickets have not yet been added to the list of new foods.

The EU New Foods Regulation has been in place since 1997, and the supranational body defines the term as “newly developed, innovative foods, foods produced using new technologies and production processes, and foods that are traditionally consumed or have been consumed outside the EU.”

While eating insects is not the norm in Europe, it is far from uncommon in some parts of the world. In Mexico and some other parts of Central America, toasted grasshoppers are eaten, often as a snack or with alcohol. Seasoned with salt, chili, and lime juice, they are known as chapulines.

Crickets are also eaten regularly in Thailand and some other parts of Asia. The European Commission recognizes that insects are already on the menu in some parts of Europe because whole insects are not subject to the same permit restrictions. According to one United Nations estimate, about 2 billion people already include insects in their diets.

In recent years, there has been a trend toward increased consumption of insects, whose proponents argue that they can be as nutritious as meat and are better for the environment because they do not require large areas of land to grow and do not produce greenhouse gases such as methane on a significant scale.

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