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Mealworms are now officially allowed in food

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Meal worms
Mealworms have been classified as safe food by the EU Commission. © iStock / egal

The European Commission and the EU member states have classified the yellow mealworm as a safe food. Thus, the insect is approved as a so-called "novel food". For the first five years, however, the authorisation is only valid for the French company that submitted the application.

However, the "Instinct Organic Insect Snack" based on insect meal from organically farmed crickets has been available in organic markets for several years. The German organic association Naturland has already defined basic husbandry conditions for organic insect breeding in a guideline. In conventional trade, too, there have been individual suppliers of insect foods for years, such as Snack Insects.

Insects need approval

The large public media response that these first suppliers had frightened the authorities. Therefore, the EU Commission clarified that foods containing insects would fall within the scope of the Novel Food Regulation from the beginning of 2018 and would need official approval. A transitional provision stipulated that insect foods that were already legally marketed as food in the EU before 01.01.2018 may continue to be marketed - if an application for authorisation as a novel food was submitted for them by 01.01.2019.

Around a dozen such applications have been submitted, including those for the European migratory locust, crickets, mealworms, buffalo worms or the larvae of the black soldier fly. The dossiers submitted have to be assessed by the EU food authority EFSA, which takes a very long time. EFSA has to confirm that the new food is safe for human health. So far, it has only managed to do so for one application for the yellow mealworm, which subsequently received its authorisation. Another three applications for the same insect are still awaiting review and approval.

Monopoly for five years

This is because the current authorisation only applies to the French manufacturer, which had already submitted its dossier in 2018, thus establishing a short-term monopoly. "As the authorisation is based on proprietary scientific data, the authorisation is initially only valid for the French company submitting the application for a period of five years.

After the expiry of this period, competitors wishing to invoke the authorisation may market the yellow mealworm even without the applicant's permission," the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety announced. It also pointed out that "the consumption of the yellow mealworm could lead to allergic reactions in sensitive persons". The label must therefore bear a reference to possible cross-reactions to allergies to crustaceans or house dust mites.


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