Entomophagy (the eating of insects) is a rising trend in Europe and was likely to become a source of viable protein and nutrition in light of increasing meat prices, according to analysts.
However, new research carried out by the European Food Safety Authority has claimed there were too many “knowledge gaps” and uncertainties related to the possible hazards of insects used for food.
“Insects can be considered as valuable sources of protein,” the report said. “Because of their high content of protein/amino acids and other nutrients, they could be an alternative to traditional food of animal origin, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs in human nutrition.”
Yet, insects weren’t a recognised source of food in any data gathered by European food authorities until the end of last year, it said.
A suitable source for the masses?
Don’t expect the confronting insect kebabs and deep fried critters seen on South East Asian streets
- Source: Kitchen Theory
As a result, it was unknown whether they were a safe source of nutrition for the masses.
“Consumption patterns based on media coverage and other communications is that insects mainly have gained a position in some countries as a snack,” the EFSA report added.
“Insects have also gained attention on the menus of high-cuisine restaurants. How and to what extent the inclusion of insects in gastronomy can impact the general consumption pattern in the population is unclear, but holds the potential for a rapid change in future consumption patterns.”
The report called for better reporting to local authorities from those venues serving insects.
If insects were eventually approved for human food, experts anticipated that the consumption of them and insect-containing products, would increase significantly, especially among younger consumers.
“This is based on considerable interest of consumers and a growing number of small emerging companies that want to market insects or processed foods with insects," it said.
Emerging company attempting
One such emerging company attempting to capitalise on the emerging interest in entomophagy was Kitchen Theory in West Kilburn, London.
Founder and chef Jozef Youssef had created a new menu of Mexican-themed insect dishes in conjunction with Oxford University and the Mexican Embassy.
But, the new dishes on the México by Kitchen Theory menu wouldn’t use insects as the main feature, said Youssef.
“Don’t expect the confronting insect kebabs and deep fried critters seen on South East Asian streets,” he explained.
“México by Kitchen Theory has been created to help the Western world understand just how environmentally beneficial, and tantalisingly delicious, entomophagy can be. Our insects will be using insects to subtly enhance dishes in a way that’s easy on the eye, yet seriously appealing to the taste buds.”