The yellow mealworm gets the green light

14 January 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘Insects are complex organisms, which makes characterising the composition of insect-derived food products a challenge…’

The European Food Safety Authority  (EFSA)  panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens, has concluded that the Novel Food, dried yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor larva), is safe for human consumption under the proposed uses.

Publishing its scientific opinion on dried mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) in the EFSA Journal, the panel noted that the Novel Food was mainly made up of protein, fat and fibre (chitin) and there were no safety concerns regarding the stability of the dried yellow mealworm if it complies with the ‘proposed specification limits during its entire shelf life.’ It is proposed that the food will be used as a whole, dried insect in the form of snacks, and as an ingredient in a number of food products. The food will be aimed at the general population. The panel noted ‘Considering the composition of the Novel Food and the proposed conditions of use, the consumption of the Novel Food is not nutritionally disadvantageous. The submitted toxicity studies from the literature did not raise safety concern.’

The panel did point out that the yellow mealworm proteins could lead to allergic reactions in people sensitised to crustaceans and dust mites. In addition, allergens from feed could end up the mealworms. The panel recommended that research is carried out on the allergenicity to yellow mealworms.

The EFSA said that since the Novel Food Regulation came into effect on 1 January 2018, it had received a large volume of applications covering a wide variety of novel and traditional food sources. These include herbal products, algae-based foods and non-indigenous fruits, in addition to an array of edible insect varieties.

Ermolaos Ververis, a chemist and food scientist at the EFSA, who coordinated the first adopted opinion on insects as novel food, said ‘Insects are complex organisms, which makes characterising the composition of insect-derived food products a challenge. Understanding their microbiology is paramount, considering also that the entire insect is consumed.’


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