Starting from the approval of a new insect by the European Union, we are pleased to share a technical report from the JRC on the safety of feed and food when used as insect rearing substrates. The use of insects as food and feed is a fast-growing sector of activity and the European Commission is looking with interest at this sector. On 10 February 2022, the Commission has authorised the placing on the market of a third insect, Acheta domesticus (house cricket) as a food and, has authorised for the second time the placing on the market of frozen, dried and powder forms of Tenebrio molitor larva (yellow mealworm) as a novel food.
Insects have shown to be an excellent source of proteins, fats, vitamins as well as minerals and, for these reasons, are increasingly taken into account. They are able to accumulate certain nutrients such as essential fatty acids (mostly ω3 and ω6) and minerals. Therefore, the key question of entomophagy is not insects as such but the required food/feed safety provisions of valorising novel commodities that (re)enter the food or feed chain.
The so called persistent organic pollutant (POPs) such as dioxins, PCBs, DDT and other organo-chlor pesticides as well as (bio)toxins need to be investigated.
Mycotoxins, for instance, might not necessarily be harmful for rearing insects as they are detoxified or excreted without any negative effects. Aflatoxin B1 conversion in Black Solder Flies (BFS) has been described when fed extremely contaminated material but this lead to the metabolites aflatoxin P1 and aflatoxicol, both similar toxic as aflatoxin B1. Another case is zearalenone (ZON). Various studies on this mycotoxin showed that mealworms excrete the zearalenone and its metabolites within 2 days but also that they convert ZON to α-zearalenol and other endocrine active metabolites. For this reason, mycotoxins assimilation and their metabolism in insects must be studied.
Plant and plant based products remain, however, the main source of nutrient also for insects. In this scenario, an innovative way is rearing insects preferably on a mix of cereals (to deliver the caloric energy) in combination with marine substrates such as macro alga, in order to introducing the marine nutrients into the fish feeding cycle.
Bracken ferns are very abundant and spread across Europe. This makes them a potential candidate for substrates in the insect rearing sector. The toxic substances found in bracken fern is the possibly carcinogenic sesquiterpene ptaquiloside. At this moment there is no information available about the risks when bracken fern is used as insect feeding substrate. Information on the metabolism in insects and possible process degradation of ptaquiloside would be value for the insect rearing sector as it could open a way to a safe valorisation of these plants.