Hazards per species of insect, including cultivation conditions and additional processing, were outlined in the guide produced by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) in Belgium.
“Worldwide, there are about 2,000 edible insect species known and, in certain regions, insects have already been eaten for ages by humans,” the FASFC said.
“Nevertheless, there is little scientific literature available on the food safety of insects."
The guidelines produced by the FASFC were the first step in the possible development of a regulated sector. But, to guarantee the food safety of entomophagy on a large scale in Europe, more research into the microbial and chemical safety of insects for human consumption was needed, it added.
Safety could be controlled through good hygiene at the rearing and processing stages, it said. However, a heating step before consumption would be necessary, as would labelling products with appropriate storage and preparation information for consumers, it added.
Labelling should also include information for consumers allergic to seafood or dust mites, it added.
In a legal context, it was uncertain whether whole insects or preparations containing them fell within the EU’s novel food regulations, said the guidelines.
However, the European Commission had recently drawn up proposals for the revision of the regulation, which could lead to insects being considered a novel food, it said.
A novel food?
“According to this draft, all species and forms of insects are considered ‘novel food’, unless it can be shown they were consumed to a significant extent by humans in the EU before May 15 1997.”
The regulation still had to be approved by the European Parliament, but it wasn’t known when this would happen, FASFC added.
Insects as an alternative protein have received a lot of attention from UK food manufacturers recently.
It is an industry estimated to be worth £230M within the next 15 years, according to New Nutrition Business.
Ready meal industry mavericks Jonny Bingham and David Jones revealed to FoodManufacture.co.uk earlier this month they were planning to launch a range of ready meals using insects as an ingredient.
The former Bakkavor and Greencore rivals would use insects as an alternative protein to produce nutritional and sustainable meals, they said.
Insects were also dubbed the next big ‘foodie’ trend by canapé start-up firm Ento Foods.
The London-based company had spent the past two years working with top chefs to come up with a range of foods based on insects, that looked appealing and tasted good.