Edible insects left in legal limbo

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Edible insects sold in the UK are done illegaly, according to Horizon Insects
Edible insects sold in the UK are done illegaly, according to Horizon Insects

Related tags Insect alternative proteins

Producers of edible insects in the UK have been left in legal limbo, after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) failed to notify producers of new regulations on novel foods post Brexit transition period, according to Horizon Insects.

In this exclusive podcast interview, co-founder Tiziana Di Costanzo told Food Manufacture​ the legal challenges that businesses like hers now face in navigating the legal minefield of novel foods authorisation.

According to Costanzo, the FSA backtracked its guidance on insects sold in the UK, with many business now left in the dark on whether or not their business will allowed to remain open.

Brexit opportunity

“Instead of using Brexit as an opportunity to disentangle the industry from red tape and to state an urgently-needed independent scientific opinion, the FSA has decided to make edible insects illegal in GB,” ​Costanzo argued.

“In the meantime the FSA also states it is “reflecting”, and that although not legal in GB they are still legal in Northern Ireland. Measures put  in place to protect business still apply to NI but not GB.”

Regulations during the transition period allowed novel foods still under review to be sold until a decision was made by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) – at which point they would be allowed to remain on store shelves as an approved novel food, or removed.

Lack of guidance

However, once the transition period ended, the FSA did not carry over any evidence or research into novel foods currently under review by EFSA. As such, products that wished to seek legal status in the UK – such as insects – would need to resubmit their applications and start the review process from scratch.

As it stands, the only insect deemed fit for human consumption by the FSA is the German cheese mite – used in the production of Milbenkäse, a German speciality cheese – since evidence existed of its consumption before 1997.

A letter sent to local authorities by the FSA confirmed that food businesses currently placing insects on the GB market are not in compliance with novel food regulations. This ruling does not apply to Northern Ireland (NI), which operates under EU regulations due to the NI Protocol.

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