Human insect consumption has received a boost as the lesser mealworm becomes the fourth insect to receive a positive assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for consumption, and recent surveys reflect a willingness on the part of European consumers to eat insects.

The process now involves the EFSA assessment being confirmed by the European Commission, which will give the final authorisation for market approval in the European Union (EU) following endorsement from EU member states, before the product can go on sale across Europe.

This news is welcomed by insect farmers such as Ÿnsect, who has filed for approximately 350 patents in new technology designed to revolutionise cultivation of mealworms, to transform them into proteins for domestic animals, fish, livestock, plants and human beings.

Ÿnsect Netherlands was responsible for submitting the application to EFSA with the aim of expanding its activities in Europe in keeping with the EU's sustainability goals. It has the infrastructure in place to expand production and distribution as soon as the European Commission gives the green light.

Insects in human consumption remains a relatively new concept but is one that is gaining prominence in other markets, including the animal feed sector. The insect producer's molitor mealworms were the first insect to be authorised by the EFSA in January 2021, shortly before insect protein was then approved for use in feed for swine and poultry.

In a survey commissioned by Ÿnsect in April 2022, over half of UK respondents – 51 percent – expressed an interest in consuming insects once the environmental and health benefits had been outlined. 89 percent of 2149 adults surveyed who had already eaten insects and insect protein reported that they enjoyed what they ate and would eat insects again.

Citing recent research conducted by Maastricht University, it has been proven that insect protein is as beneficial as gold standard milk protein with regards to performance on digestion, absorption and the ability to stimulate muscle production. It also confirms that mealworm-derived protein is a premium and high-value ingredient and in consideration of the sustainability benefits, is a great source of protein for food production.

The research demonstrates that mealworm meets the same standards as milk protein, as it also contains nine essential amino acids, can be efficiently digested in the human body and is capable of reducing cholesterol using studies on mice.

"The recent assessment by EFSA that lesser mealworms are safe for human consumption is a significant step forward for the company's expansion," explains Antoine Hubert, CEO, and co-founder of Ÿnsect. "Mealworm protein offers the best of both worlds, as nutritionally beneficial as animal protein, but with a much lower environmental impact. Indeed the scientific community is increasingly rallying around the idea … a 2022 report by the University of Helsinki suggests that a diet incorporating large amounts of insect protein offers the optimum solution to reduce environmental impact by over 80 percent while offering high nutritional benefits to the consumer."

With estimates of animal protein global consumption set to increase by 52 percent between 2007 and 2030, finding a sustainable protein source is all the more crucial.

"Mealworm protein is the only one in the world available on the market able to combine not only performance and health but also naturalness and sustainability," remarks Shankar Krishnamoorthy, EVP and Chief Development Officer at Ÿnsect. "Ÿnsect uses 89 percent less land while significantly reducing the carbon and biodiversity footprints of protein production."

"Additionally, you only need one or two kilos of feed to produce one kilogram of insect protein, as opposed to nine kilograms for traditional beef," he adds.

Ÿnsect aligns itself with the European Commission's main priorities including the Green Deal, Circular Economy Action Plan, Protein Plan and the 'Eu Farm to Fork Strategy' which included insect production as a strategic sector with regards to creating new jobs while keeping carbon emissions low.

For more information on Ÿnsect visit their website, HERE.

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