What’s the buzz on edible insect regulations?

22 March 2024

The global market for edible insects is forecast to reach USD 17.6 billion by 2032, but the regulatory landscape lacks maturity. There are many grey areas, even in markets where entomophagy (eating insects) is a cultural tradition. So, it’s hard to plan product strategies that make the most of this commercial opportunity.

Edible insect regulations | Leatherhead Food Research

Much of the complexity relates to whether edible insects are classified as ‘novel’ when used as an ingredient in prepackaged foods. Another area where food, beverage, and supplement companies need to tread carefully is the allergenicity of some edible insects. Few markets include insects on recognised allergen lists, but it’s widely understood that some species may trigger a reaction in people with a crustacean allergy.

Spotlight on Mexico

Insects are widely available for human consumption in Mexico, but there are no specific provisions for their use, sale, or compositional standards. The same is true of insect ingredients.

Since edible insects could be considered ‘traditional’ or ‘cultural’ food, they may be classified as food supplements under Mexican regulations. However, this is a grey area.

Non-harmonisation and confusion across markets

The constant development across markets, imposes two new challenges: non-harmonisation and lack of clarity.

Non-harmonisation leads to complexity for food manufacturers. For example, Australia and the US both use the “Contains” statement for allergen declaration, but they do not recognise the same allergens.

Consider molluscs for example: they are recognised as allergens in Australia, requiring declaration in the ingredient list and mandatory inclusion of a “Contains” statement for molluscs and products thereof. However, molluscs are not recognised allergens in the US, prohibiting the use of a “Contains” statement for these ingredients in this market. This divergence poses a labelling challenge for both importers and exporters.

Spotlight on EU

Europeans are less familiar with insect-based foods, resulting in food neophobia for many consumers. Nevertheless, interest is growing and three of the world’s top ten insect ingredient manufacturers are based in Europe: Ynsect (France), Protix (Netherlands), and InnovaFeed (France).

All edible insects in all forms are covered by Regulation (EU) No 2015/2283 for the placing of novel foods on the market. However, there are significant discrepancies regarding application of the transitional measures at the Member State level.

As novel foods, edible insects are subject to general requirements laid down in Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 and other relevant labelling requirements. Additional labelling may be required to declare the presence of insects in the food product, along with mandatory allergen warnings.

Edible insect regulations are complex, evolving, and ambiguous

Companies active in the edible insect category, or intending to enter it, must contend with a difficult regulatory landscape. Grey areas and discrepancies between markets are just part of the challenge. It’s also important to take a risk-based approach to allergen labelling.

Here at Leatherhead, regulatory experts can help determine the best regulatory path and labelling approaches to support your innovation and commercial efforts. Find out more here.

This information is taken from a Leatherhead Food Research members’ whitepaper focused on global regulations related to edible insects. Our members receive detailed updates on topical regulatory matters throughout the year. If you’re interested in becoming a member, further information is available here.

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