UK: new FSA evaluation finds minimal safety risk from edible insects

According to an evaluation conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), edible insects sold in the United Kingdom pose low risk to the public.

FSA experts looked at allergens, microbial, and heavy metal contamination in seven edible insects ((i.e. black soldier fly, yellow mealworm, house cricket, banded cricket, migratory locust, desert locust, and smaller mealworm) currently available on the UK market.

Due to a lack of consumption data on edible insects in the UK, a thorough exposure evaluation was not conducted.

Regarding the risk of allergic reactions, the likelyhood of them to occur is estimated to be quite minimal, as far as products are properly labeled. The severity of illness reported by consumers is generally low short durations and low severity. However, for some people with severe allergic reactions to shellfish (especially crustaceans) and mites, the severity of the illness may be significant and cause anaphylactic shock. These consumers are expected to minimize their contact with such food if it is labeled.

According to FSA experts, the frequency of exposure to harmful microorganisms and/or heavy is considered to be very low as well. However, the illnesses from exposure to Salmonella and other pathogens can range in severity from asymptomatic to fatal.

Due to the fact that insect products have just recently been available in the UK, there is no data on their microbial contamination. Evidence from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) and FSA’s risk profiles revealed that the content of heavy metals in edible insects depends on species accumulation potential, feed used, and breeding substrate. After harvesting, these compounds can alsoform and be picked up during processing.

Physical hazards, such as particularly hard or large parts of the insect’s body, can be managed by removing of these parts.

Moreover, although not covered in the repor, the FSA stated that, it was important into to take into account consumer acceptance, animal welfare, and trade in wider work on regulating edible insects and the impact on food safety.