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Novel Alternative Proteins: A Path to Sustainable Healthy Diets, Insect Derived

Novel Alternative Proteins: A Path to Sustainable Healthy Diets, Insect Derived

The demand for alternatives to animal products is growing as consumers grow more concerned about their health and the environment.  

In response to these consumers concerns and the need for sustainable diets, food industry leaders are developing a range of new products and ingredients using different plant-based and insect derived proteins. Our food labelling expert Camila Gomez Pardo delves into insect-derived proteins in this blog – if you would like to read about plant-based proteins you can find her blog here. 

insect alternative protein

What is a ‘sustainable healthy diet’?  

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) ‘sustainable healthy diets’ are diets that are healthy; have a low environmental impact; are accessible, affordable, safe, and equitable; and are culturally acceptable. 

The EU has already paved the way to sustainability within the food industry with the Farm to Fork strategy which aims to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly, but what’s next?  

Insect-derived alternative proteins  

Due to the consumer focus on a ‘sustainable healthy diet’ commercial applications for novel protein alternatives have increased in the past years and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been working on scientific safety assessments for some of which we have recently had some positive outcomes. 

In the EU, insects fall under the definition of novel food as food ingredients isolated from animals. Novel foods are those that have not been widely consumed by people in the UK or EU before May 1997, in other words they are foods that don’t have a ‘history of consumption’.  

Before the new Novel Food Regulation authorisation procedure became centralised, some EU Member States have allowed insects as food under national legislation. However, under the new Novel Food Regulation, Member States who have allowed whole insects to be marketed in their countries now need to submit a novel food application for authorisation. 

According to the current summary of applications and notifications published by the EC, from a total of 136 applications submitted for novel foods authorisations, 12 are either for whole or ground insects. 

What insect derived novel foods have been approved in recent times?  

In January 2021, EFSA published the first assessment of an insect-derived food product as novel food: ‘Dried Tenebrio molitor larva’ (yellow mealworm). This was the first novel insect to be deemed safe under the EU’s Novel Food regulation.  

In June 2021, the EC have authorised the placing on the market of dried Tenebrio molitor larva as a novel food under Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. It was established that the labelling of the food categories in which the novel food may be used (e.g., protein products, biscuits, pasta-based products, legumes-based dishes) will require an additional specific statement related to the potential for allergenic risks associated to edible insects. Allergen labelling that includes a statement that the ingredient may cause allergic reactions to consumers with known allergies to crustaceans and products thereof, and to dust mites, will be required. The allergen labelling should appear in close proximity to the list of ingredients. If you need more clarity on how to label allergens on your product, our food labelling experts can help you to navigate these regulations.  

Interestingly, yellow mealworm was not the only insect the EFSA has green lighted this year. Very recently, EFSA also delivered a positive opinion on dried and powder forms of Locusta migratoria (migratory locust), which concluded it did not pose a safety risk to human health under the proposed uses and intake levels. In November 2021, the EC authorised the placing on the market of frozen, dried and powder forms of Locusta migratoria as a novel food under Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. Food categories in which the novel food may be used, and additional specific statement related to the potential for allergenic risks associated to edible insects were also established.

According to a guidance document from the FSA to the Local Health Authorities, edible insects that were not authorised in the EU before the end of the transition period (01 January 2021) will be regarded as unauthorised novel foods in the GB market and would require an application to be submitted and then to be authorised in order to be in compliance with the legislation. Although the EC authorised the placing on the market of dried Tenebrio molitor larva as a novel food under Regulation (EU) 2015/2283, this will not apply to the GB market. Currently, no insect has been authorised by the FSA/FSS. The FSA has also stated that is “currently reflecting on its policy regarding the marketing of insects in GB, including whether to introduce new GB-specific transitional measures”. 

What’s next in insect derived alternative proteins?  

The insect-derived novel protein market has a transformative potential as it can meet the requirements of the growing world population and lead towards a more sustainable, healthy food system, contributing to the objectives of the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy.   

To read more about what we can expect for the future of novel alternative proteins click here.  

Are you developing a product that includes approved novel foods? Our regulatory advice and food label checking service can help to ensure you comply with current regulations; we have a team of highly knowledgeable food labelling experts to ensure you are confident in the compliance of your products.  


Similar Blogs:

Novel Alternative Proteins: what can we expect for the future

Novel Alternative Proteins: a path to sustainable healthy diets – Plant-based 

Caitlin Stewart, Marketing Manager

My background in Food Science and Marketing means I have a unique combination of commercial creativity and technical food manufacturing experience. My ambition is to bring clarity to the complex world of compliance through the simple and eye-catching communication of Ashbury's services.

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