Two-year count down for insect novel food approval

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

About 27% of the 7.3 billion global population eat insects, according to the FAO. Photo credit: / peterkai
About 27% of the 7.3 billion global population eat insects, according to the FAO. Photo credit: / peterkai

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Producers of food-grade insects will submit a novel food application as soon as the new regulation passes into force, the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) has pledged.

“As soon as the new regulation enters into force, producers of insects for food consumption that intend to sell their products on the EU market shall submit an authorisation dossier to the European Commission,”​ the organisation said in a statement.

This week the much debated new EU novel food regulation was passed into EU law. It comes into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal of the EU and will be applicable two years later.

The regulation placed insects firmly within its scope – confirming that insects are unauthorised novel food ingredients within Europe if they were not consumed before 1997 in the EU. 

This gives companies already marketing insects for human use on the EU market two years to submit a dossier for authorisation.

IPIFF said it “deplored”​ the fact it was given only two years to do this.

Yet IPIFF founding member Heidi de Bruin said EU companies had already gathered substantial data demonstrating safety for human consumption.

A recent risk profile from EFSA on insects for food and feed highlighted the lack of consumption data for humans.

The new regulation also added a new element of ‘third country’ consumption data, the details of which are to be set out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which will now be directly processing novel food applications.

Traditional diets

According to a 2013 report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), insects already form part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people with over 1,900 species reportedly used as food.

That’s about 27% of the current 7.3 billion global population.

So could this third-country element unlock safety data from this existing global pool of insect consumers?

For Dr Luca Bucchini, managing director of Hylobates Consulting, this clause held potential but it would depend on how EFSA interpreted it and the new regulation as a whole.

“Experience suggests that the data required may not be too different after all, once scientists put their minds to it, and find that a certain amount of information is needed to ensure a proper assessment in any case, and this may still be too demanding for many firms.”


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Lara Skoblikov, partner at law firm Food Compliance International, echoed these doubts.

“It still has to be seen whether the exception in the new novel foods regulation for foods traditionally used in third countries will ease the authorisation process for insect food. It will, of course, be possible to provide evidence of traditional consumption of a number of insects in third countries.

“I’m quite skeptical though in thinking that the system may in practice not prove to be as efficient as we all hope. If any of the 28 member states objects to an application on the basis of traditional use, the application will be sent to EFSA anyway.”

IPIFF president Antoine Hubert warned that a practical and realistic take on the new rules was needed.

“It is however key that the administrative burden and the costs for applicants are reduced as much as possible,”​ he said.

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