An Overview of the Considerations For Insects as Food

Americans have traditionally relied on dairy products and livestock for their primary source of protein. Current dietary trends in America have shifted to novel sources of protein to replace the traditional sources. This shift in focus raises questions about the safety of these proteins that are not traditionally sourced.


There are many novel protein sources ( e.g. microalgae seaweed, duckweed and brown rice but the one that is most popular is the Orthoptera. Although it may appear strange to some, Orthoptera is a common ingredient in many cultures. In limited cases, they have also been introduced to American cuisine. There has been an increase in interest in Orthoptera as a protein source. This may be due to ethical concerns and health-related concerns as well as economic reasons.


Since the 1950s, questions about protein availability and quality have been raised under the concept of the “World Protein Gap”. Orthoptera is considered to be a sustainable source and have the capacity to meet the growing demand for protein. As the world’s population grows to nine billion, this sustainable source of protein may be more important than ever. According to the United Nations (UN), 80 percent of world’s countries use Orthoptera as food sources.


Safety-in-use for Orthoptera may be granted in certain parts of the globe. However, there are many different types of Orthoptera available making it difficult to assess the safety of all foodstuffs. There are many factors to consider when evaluating safety of Orthoptera as food ingredients in the United States.


There are many options available to determine the safety of food ingredients used in the United States. The 1958 Food Additive Amendment (Food, Drug, and Cosmetic) Act provides two options for determining the safety of a food component. One is through a Food Additive Petition (FAP) and the other is through a generally recognized to be safe (GRAS). Although the FAP and GRAS requirements are nearly identical, food ingredients with strong safety evaluations or a history that has been safe for consumption are good candidates for a GRAS assessment.


A variety of insects have been used for food all over the world (locusts, grasshoppers, cricket, silkworm and beetles). According to the news reports on the availability of cricket as food in the United States, it appears that the cricket is the most popular. You can buy crickets as whole, cooked food, or as powder (also known as cricket flour).


To ensure that an insect is safe and acceptable to the consumer, it should also be evaluated. There are two types of contamination: microbial and toxicant.


Insects can be contaminated by microbial organisms ( e.g. bacteria, fungi and mycotoxins) because they are taxonomically different from those that affect humans. It has been claimed that insects are taxonomically distinct from those that can affect humans. However, to confirm this claim, testing would need to be done on any source of insect that could be used to make food.


Safety is another aspect to be aware of. It can be caused by the environment in which the insect is raised or the food it is given. Insects can absorb and concentrate substances from the environment or food they eat. These substances may be passed to consumers because of bioaccumulation. These substances could potentially be passed on to consumers because of bioaccumulation.
Safety evaluations that address physical hazards and other issues should be done beyond what is considered to be good agricultural practices. Safety evaluations that address physical hazards should be conducted beyond what would be considered good agricultural practices. Individuals who have allergies to crustaceans ( shrimp, lobster, and other crustaceans) might also react to insects.
Advocates of insects as a protein replacement or meal source claim that they have twice the protein of beef and five times the magnesium than beef. A safety evaluation should also be done to make sure that the body does not react negatively to higher amounts of any substance. Safety evaluations should also identify any substances that are likely to change significantly in comparison with traditional protein sources like beef, pork, or poultry. Important to note that a GRAS food ingredient must be safe for its intended purpose and comply with federal regulations.


The FDA is usually the arbiter for food items. The FDA was apathetic in this instance when it came to addressing the use insects as food. Substantial information is missing. Entomophagy (17) questions. The FDA first refers to Section 201(f), FD&C Act. This section states that bugs/insects can be used as food, or as part of food, but does not mention insects. This section and subsequent sections define the distinction between food, drugs, and cosmetics for the purposes of the Act. A review of FDA documents reveals that the term “insect” is absent from any relevant or available FDA documents. This includes commodities containing a maximum amount of insect filth.


FDA response19 reiterates that food must be safe and healthy. The FDA response does not mention that these insects must be subject to safety evaluations if they are intended to be food or used as “food additives”. Based on it is obvious that insects can be used as food ingredients. Therefore, any insect-based food ingredient must either be declared GRAS or be approved by the FAP. The insect can be made into a food ingredient if it is modified from its original form ( .e.g.cricks) . The FDA inquiry response does not contain this important information. It is the responsibility of the processor or manufacturer who uses insects as food ingredients to address it.


There will be concerns about the safety of eating insects as a source of protein in the United States as they become more accepted. FDA might have to recognize that more insect-based ingredients are on the market and must be evaluated for food additives or GRAS. Any manufacturer who enters the market should be aware of the obstacles that exist and the issues that need to be addressed.

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