EFSA experts have given the go-ahead for the food consumption of a type of locust in Europe as well

EFSA experts have given the go-ahead for the food consumption of a type of locust in Europe as well

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gives a positive opinion on consumption on the tables of the migratory locust. But other steps are needed to authorize the trade

(photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=268840 via Wikipedia) In the European Union among the novel foods, the new foods, a new edible insect could soon arrive, the migratory locust, a type of locust widespread in Asia and Europe and also present in Italy. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), consulted by the European Commission, has expressed a favorable opinion regarding the placing on the market of these new insects in frozen and dried formulations. The introduction of the new food takes place "pursuant to regulation (EU) 2015/2283", as stated in the opinion, the possibility of consumption of which includes the general population. In particular, there are no risks and concerns regarding the safety of consumption and the nutritional profile does not show any disadvantages.

Green light from specialists

Efsa's favorable opinion does not correspond to the placing on the market, which takes place only after authorization by the European Union, but provides a specialist and official point of view on the subject, based on the analysis of the scientific evidence available. The study stems from a specific request from the Commission. The investigations carried out are many and include various aspects: in addition to the nutritional evaluation there is the toxicological, chemical and microbiological one. For example, it is necessary to assess whether and which proteins in the new food may possibly cause allergic reactions in a large population, as explained in a note by EFSA, and with the increase in requests for evaluation, the professional burden is also high.

The document states that the panel of experts on nutrition, novel foods and new allergens evaluated the migratory locust insect in its dried and frozen formulation. The experts conclude that the novel food is “safe under the conditions of use and the proposed limits. [...] The group of experts notes that, given the composition of the novel food and the proposed conditions of use, its consumption is not disadvantageous from a nutritional point of view. The history of use and the toxicity studies presented by the literature have not raised safety issues ".

Efsa adds that migratory locust can cause allergic reactions in subjects allergic to crustaceans, mites and molluscs. Furthermore, he points out that even food allergens can end up in the food.

Novel foods

Novel foods are those new foods or ingredients for the European Union, i.e. not consumed and not present on the market, a concept introduced to differentiate them from those in common use and prior to the EC Regulation 258 of 1997. Among these there is for example the dehydrated pulp of the baobab (coming from the fruit of Adansonia digitata), naturally rich in vitamin C , calcium and antioxidants, or refined Echium oil, extracted from the seeds of the Echium plant. In the food sector, insects are of great interest, also for their high protein content and for the good nutritional properties highlighted by the FAO.

What Efsa does

Currently not in Italy there is still no type of insect on the food market and therefore no marketing is allowed. Efsa's analyzes are articulated and well thought-out: currently Efsa has already received 17 requests for new edible insects to enter the market. Doctors of these are already in the risk assessment phase and the other five are in an immediately preceding study stage, in which certain requirements are verified. In January 2021, Efsa provided the first favorable opinion for the placing on the market of an insect, the Tenebrio molitor larva (known as flour moth). Following the approval of Efsa on May 3, 2021, the European Commission authorized the marketing of this novel food. For now, therefore, there is only one authorization for the flour moth that may be available soon. In the future, if the Commission also expresses itself favorably for the migratory locust, this could be the second insect sold.

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