Why eating creepy crawlies like mealworms, crickets has been okayed in Europe

The European Union has recently approved at least four insects for human consumption, including mealworms and house crickets, according to DW. The larvae can be sold as powder, paste, dried, and frozen, while crickets can be retailed in partially defatted powder form.

According to Retaildetail.eu, the EU has stated that manufacturers must properly declare such ingredients on food packaging. This is for the benefit of those with allergies to crustaceans, molluscs or house dust mites. This decision clears the way for companies manufacturing foods containing insects to be sold across the EU, as per Forbes.

Such foods are only sold in supermarkets in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Danish due to their interpretation of a 1997 law which stated that any food not eaten before that year should be deemed “novel foods”. The EU said its decision “contributes positively to the environment and to health and livelihoods”, as per DW. The European Commission, perhaps looking to allay the public’s fears, last week tweeted that “nobody will be forced to eat insects”.

As per Forbes, mealworms offer the same amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals as fish or meat. Mealworms taste “a lot like peanuts,” reported Politico. They can be salted, dipped in chocolate, sprinkled on salads or even added to soups, as per the website.

Mario Mazzocchi, an economic statistician and professor at the University of Bologna, told Politico, “There are clear environmental and economic benefits if you substitute traditional sources of animal proteins with those that require less feed, produce less waste and result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Lower costs and prices could enhance food security and new demand will open economic opportunities too, but these could also affect existing sectors,” Mazzocchi added.

Experts believe insects are a way to provide an ever-increasing population with a new source of protein. The UN has been making a push for people to consume insects to tackle ‘food insecurity’ since it published its 2013 report Edible Insects, according to Forbes.

According to Forbes, alternative meat options are a growing market. Investment in such options around the world increased from $31 million in 2016 to a mammoth $1.3 billion) in 2020.

However, don’t expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon immediately. As per Forbes, though more than 2.5 billion people consume insects daily, it is not a practice that has caught on in Western nations.

“There are cognitive reasons derived from our social and cultural experiences, the so-called ‘yuck factor,’ that make the thought of eating insects repellent to many Europeans,” Giovanni Sogari, a social and consumer researcher at the University of Parma, told Politico. “With time and exposure such attitudes can change.”