We made some questions to Dr. Tilemachos Goumperis -an expert of the Emerging Risks Unit at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)- about the hypothetical risks related to the rearing and consumption of edible insects and his personal experience with Entomophagy.
What are the real risks concerning food security arising from the production and consumption of foods based on insects?
According to EFSA, when insects are fed with approved feed, the potential risk of exposure to diseases and infections should be similar to that associated with other animals that are a protein source.
EFSA risk assessment lists in detail the potential biological and chemical hazards for the environment and even the possible allergenic problems associated with the consumption of insects.
The potential presence of biological and chemical contaminants in insect based food for human consumption and animal feed might be determined by the specific production methods, by the “substrate” used for feeding insects, by the life-cycle stage in which insects are collected, by the insect species, as well as by the methods used for their further processing.
In the breeding of edible insects are there any environmental factors that may affect the food security of the products produced?
Production and processing of insects require energy, water, land and other resources. Therefore a risk profile on the environmental impacts and related mitigation strategies are also needed.
How do you imagine entomophagy in 15 years?
Entomophagy is already part of the diet of many people around the world, but it’s difficult to say what it will be for the europeans in 15 years because edible insects are not part of their diet.
Regarding scientific knowledge further research is surely needed. As a matter of fact EFSA indicates areas of uncertainty due to the current lack of available data.
Have you ever had the chance to eat insects? What do you remember about the experience?
Yes, I had the chance to eat insects (worms and crickets) and even protein derived from insects, all produced by European companies. They had a neutral flavor, rather than a strong one.
I’m not a huge fan of this food, either because I am not used to it and because I assume protein from other sources.