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Mealworm as a new food: what it is for, its properties and possible risks

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

Legislation moves slowly, but everything comes. Years ago we began to hear that insects were going to be the food of the future, and we were even able to try the first products made with them. However, there was a legal vacuum that regulated its use. Following the favorable EFSA report earlier this year, the European Commission has just officially approved the yellow worm as an authorized novel food.

Also known as the mealwormTenebrio molitor thus becomes the first insect available by the food industry for use in products intended for human or animal consumption in the European Union. According to the Commission itself, it is proposed as a new food that can be used dry and whole as a snack, or as an ingredient in all kinds of food products.

In January 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the latest complete and exhaustive evaluation of the Tenebrio molitor worm as a food product to be considered within the possible new foods allowed. 

It was a scientific report whose purpose was to determine the safety and possible health risks that its widespread consumption among the population would imply.

The favorable conclusions of this evaluation have led the European Commission to give the green light to the inclusion of the yellow worm as a new food, and it only remains to wait for the norm authorizing its regulated commercialization to be published.

According to the organism itself, this response to the interest and request of different companies that have already requested authorization to market products made with Tenebrio molitor, the larval form of the mealworm beetle, pointing out that it is a good alternative source of protein, and of traditional consumption in other cultures. Insects are very rich in nutrients, easy to produce without generating a great environmental impact, and much cheaper than other animal proteins.

Is its consumption totally safe? 

EFSA concluded in its report that the worm could cause allergic reactions, specifically in people with pre-existing allergies to crustaceans or dust mites; Furthermore, if it is used as flour, it could also present a potential risk of allergens derived from other ingredients or traces, such as gluten or nuts. The new regulations are expected to establish specific labeling requirements regarding allergenicity.

This worm can be used as food on its own, presented dry and whole, or ground into flour. Thus, it is already consumed as an aperitif or snack seasoned with spices, flavorings or sauces, and can be used to make sweet and salty cookies, bakery products, sausages, and vegetable substitutes for meat, sports foods, supplements, etc. In addition, it can also be used for feeding and supplementation of animals.

Currently, the European Commission has eleven more applications open for the authorization of insects, which must await the EFSA safety assessment.

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