Is it okay to eat insects

Eating insects: an alternative to traditional meat?

Where can I try edible insects?

Edible insects are now also finding their way into the German (Internet) market and are offered in a wide variety of forms: They are available entirely as a snack (e.g. deep-fried spicy grasshoppers), in chocolate or honey, ground as insect meal (e.g. . As an ingredient for insect noodles) and as a protein bar and powder for athletes.

In many parts of Germany, insect burgers with buffalo worms are also sold through a supermarket chain. And there are already the first restaurants where guests can try buffalo worms or grasshoppers.

How Safe is it to Eat Insects?

Insects as food are still relatively new to us. For this reason, there is still a lack of specific regulations in the responsible party Food hygiene regulation. For example, there are no clear requirements for approval and identification for insect producing and processing companies.

Austria is already one step further. Here is a guideline for farmed insects as food. This stipulates, for example, that bred insects may only be placed on the market if they are subjected to heat treatment or treatment using other methods such as high-pressure treatment after being killed. This is to ensure that all germs are killed. The market check carried out by the consumer advice centers showed that there were no indications as to whether the products were heated during manufacture or whether they were subjected to another method of killing germs. A forsa survey on food containing insects, which was carried out on behalf of the consumer advice centers, shows that most consumers assume that they can consume the product directly. This shows that clear labeling with regard to the use is necessary.

Which legal requirements apply to food insects?

In the EU, insects (and insect parts) that are sold as food require approval under the Novel Food Regulation. Corresponding applications are ongoing.

So far, applications for approval have been made for:

  • House cricket
  • Bufallowurm (larva of the glossy black grain mold beetle), whole or ground
  • Tropical house barbecue, dried
  • European migratory locust
  • Mealworms (mealworm larvae): approved as a food in the EU in May 2021
  • Honeybee drone brood (male honeybee larva)
  • Larva of the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens

Everything that is now offered may be marketed due to a transitional regulation (DVO (EU) 2017/2469, Art. 8 (5)) pending a final decision.

The problem with this transitional regulation is that insect products are currently on the market that have not yet been assessed by EFSA. Health risks are therefore possible.

Other conceivable risks:

  • Transmission of zoonoses (Infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa): The probability of zoonoses is relatively low, but cannot be ruled out. Little is known about the diseases that can affect insects.
  • Use of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, or other chemicals: Breeders in Europe point out that the insects have so far been bred without the use of antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals, but so far there are no neutral control results.
  • So far there are no special hygiene requirements for food insects. For example, there are no clear requirements for approval and identification for insect producing and processing companies.

Where do food insects come from?

Food insects that are offered in the German food trade come exclusively from controlled rearing. Consumers do not have to fear that wild-caught grasshoppers from Africa are used, where they sometimes appear as a nuisance and are in abundance. Such insects would not meet the applicable hygiene regulations and legal requirements with regard to food safety. The producers are responsible for ensuring that these principles are adhered to.

There are now insect farms in many countries, e.g. in the Netherlands, Spain, but also in Germany. However, the origin of the insects does not have to be marked on the product.

What are edible insects fed?

So far, there are no specific regulations for the requirements of food insects for food insects. The feed hygiene regulation therefore applies. This regulates criteria for feed that is produced for feeding animals intended for food production. According to this, for example, no food waste may be fed, only additives approved for feed may be used and certain microbiological requirements must be complied with.

With Naturland, an association for organic food has set its own guidelines for ecological insect breeding. When it comes to feeding, primarily organic vegetable by-products and residues from organic production should be used. No products should be fed that are in direct competition with food for human consumption.

Where should insects come from that consumers consume?

Only eat insects that have been bred for human consumption. You should not eat insects that you have collected yourself. These are wild animals that also feed on waste or can be infested with parasites. You should also refrain from doing so with regard to the death of insects.