Project in Kenya looks at edible insect safety; EU approves house crickets

Project in Kenya looks at edible insect safety; EU approves house crickets

by Sue Jones
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A research project on the safety of edible insects involving Germany and Kenya is entering its final year.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and Jomo Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, are leading the ContamInsect research project, which started in 2020.

It focuses on the safety of the most commonly used insect species for food in Kenya and evaluation of chemical contaminants such as mycotoxins, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Sample collection is being conducted in Kenya with analysis done at the BfR.

The aim is to find out whether and to what extent the top consumed insect species in Kenya are contaminated and to better identify health issues that could be related to consumption of edible insects.

A feeding trial is also being carried out in Kenya using highly aflatoxin contaminated grains to black soldier fly larvae as one of the most relevant edible insects consumed in Africa.

The warm and humid climate of Kenya is an ideal breeding ground for aflatoxin-producing molds, which can make a large part of the harvest inedible. Chemical analyses should show whether larvae that feed on moldy grain accumulate or excrete aflatoxins. Results will inform a report including codes of practice that can be given to local farmers and insect processors.

Other projects involving the BfR include Risk Assessment Strategies for Contaminants in Seafood (RASCS) with agencies in Italy, Portugal, France, Belgium and Spain; Digital Technologies for Food Safety Decision Support (FoodDecide) with a partner in Montenegro; and Food and feed Classification for tracing purposes (FoodClass).

EU insect approval
Meanwhile, the European Commission has authorized house crickets as a novel food. It is the third insect approved for consumption and follows the dried yellow mealworm, and migratory locust. Novel food is food that was not consumed to a significant degree in the EU before May 1997.

The house cricket will be available in its entirety, either frozen or dried, and in powder form.  It is intended to be sold as a snack or an ingredient in food products.

Authorization was endorsed by member states in December 2021, following an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It will come into effect on March 3. An application was made by the Dutch company Fair Insects in 2018.

Products containing this novel food will be labeled to bring attention to potential allergens as it may cause reactions in people allergic to crustaceans, mollusks and mites.

There are another nine applications for insects, which are subject to a safety evaluation by EFSA.

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