EU Law regulates the conditions for food and feed business operators, such as insect producers, to produce and commercialize their products in the European Union. Notably, EU policy makers have adopted – in the early 2000’ – a package of legislative texts which define general principles and standards in the area of food and feed safety: These legislative texts are most commonly known as the ‘General Food Law’ (Regulation No 178/2002) and the ‘Hygiene Package’ (e.g. Regulation No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs and Regulation No 183/2005 laying down requirements for feed hygiene).
According to the above texts, producers of insects – like any other food or feed business operator – are responsible for ensuring the safety of the marketed products: to this end, these texts impose general obligations on those actors – such as the registration or approval of their activities before national competent authorities – and establish hygiene standards to be applied at the different stages of production covered.
Download the General Food Law Regulation – i.e. Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 – and the Regulations contained in the ‘Hygiene Package’ – i.e. Regulation No 852/2004 and Regulation No 183/2005 .
EU decision makers have also established restrictions on the feed which may be given to ‘farmed animals’ – i.e. animals that are kept for the production of food, feed or other derived products (e.g. wool or hides). These restrictions also apply to insects intended for human consumption or for animal feed use.
Consequently, such insects may only be fed with materials of vegetal origin. Some exceptions are however admitted for materials of animal origin such as milk, eggs and their products, honey, rendered fat or blood products from non-ruminant animals. The feeding of farmed animals with other slaughterhouse or rendering derived products, manure, or catering waste is however prohibited. The same ban applies to the use of unsold products from supermarkets or food industries (e.g. unsold products in reason of manufacturing or packaging defects) if these contain meat or fish.
Furthermore, obligations lie with insect producers to ensure that their animals are kept in good health so as to prevent the spreading of diseases among their production flock. To this end, EU policy makers have established the responsibilities of animal breeders in the area of health and biosecurity in the so-called ‘EU Animal Health Law’.
Third countries producers intending to export insects or their derived products – as food or feed – into the European Union must comply with similar– or equivalent – standards as those establhed in the European legislation (see above).
Yet, EU legislation acknowledges the specificities of insect production activities
European insect producers must conform with EU environmental legislation: Notably, Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014 restricts the insect species that are eligible for farming purposes – i.e. by establishing a list of ‘invasive alien species’. The objective of this legislative text is to prevent the introduction in the environment of species that may threaten upon surrounding biodiversity or ecosystems, in the event of accidental release of farmed insects. Today, the only listed insect species in this legislation – and therefore prohibited –is the Asian predatory wasp – i.e. vespa velutina. Yet this list should be updated on a regular basis.
EU policy makers have left out invertebrate animals – and thus insects – from the scope of the EU animal welfare legislation that normally apply to European animal breeders. This means that today insect producers are exempted from any EU legal obligations in the area of animal welfare.
Producers of insects intended for animal feed use must be registered and/or approved for that purpose
Producers of insect intended for animal feed use (i.e. farmed livestock, aquaculture or pet food) must be registered as ‘feed business operators’ before their national competent authorities. This prescription is posed by Regulation (EC) 183/2005, which defines safety and hygiene standards for animal feed products.
Insects and their derived products – excluding live insects –that are intended to be used in animal feed are considered as ‘animal by-products’ – i.e. animals and products from animals that are not intended for human consumption – under EU Law. This qualification entails a series of obligations for producers: these obligations are defined in Regulation No 1069/2009 and its implementing Regulation No 142/2011 – more commonly referred to as the ‘EU animal by-products legislation’.
Insects must be processed in establishments that are specifically approved for that purpose: Such procedure is required in order to assess that the potential biological risks associated with such products are appropriately managed by the producer.
For producers of insect meal – more commonly referred to as ‘processed insect proteins’ or ‘insect proteins’ –, such approval is conditional on the fulfillment of a specific processing method, as described in the EU ‘animal by products legislation’ – i.e. in Regulation No 142/2011 (annex IV, chapter III)
- Insect meal producers may apply one of the methods 1 to 5: in this case, the parameters – i.e. reduction of particle size, heat treatment, time and pressure – associated with each of these methods are specifically defined in the abovementioned Regulation.
- Alternatively, insect meal producers may apply the so-called ‘method 7’: in this case, the parameters associated with the method are defined by Member States competent authorities, but remain based general criteria that are being defined in the above EU Regulation: e.g. the operator must demonstrate that the final product is free from – or does not exceed certain maximum levels – the following bacterial agents: Salmonella, Enterobacteriaceae and Clostridium perfigens)
Yet, the fulfilment of one of the above-mentioned methods is not prescribed, in case the operator produces insect fat, whole insects or if the insect meal is obtained through hydrolysis technique.
Furthermore, the possibilities to feed insect proteins to certain animal species are limited due the EU ‘feed ban’ rules
Today, farmed animals derived proteins are banned for use in feed for ruminant (e.g. cows) and monogastric animals (e.g. pigs and poultry animals). More commonly known as the EU ‘feed ban’, such prohibition was introduced by EU public authorities in reaction to the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in the early 2000’. The feed ban rules are contained in Regulation No 999/2001 (see article 7 and Annex IV), which is more commonly known as the ‘TSE Regulation’.
As consequence of the above legislation, insects derived proteins are today not allowed for use in pig or poultry feed, whereas pet food (e.g. dogs, cats, birds or reptiles) and fur animals (e.g. mink) may well be fed with such products.
It should be noted that the fed ban does not apply to whole insects nor to insect derived fats.
The recent authorization of insect proteins for use in aqua feed has paved the way to new feed markets for insect producers
In its scientific opinion dated from 8 October 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that the ‘possible occurrence of microbiological hazards in insect protein sources is expected to be comparable to their occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin’.
The above opinion provided the basis for a revision of the feed ban rules in view of authorizing the use of insect proteins in feed for farmed animals:
- The recently adopted Regulation No 2017/893 indeed authorises the use of insect proteins originating from seven insect species – namely Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens), Common Housefly (Musca domestica), Yellow Mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), Lesser Mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus), House Cricket (Acheta domesticus), Banded Cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus) and Field Cricket (Gryllus assimilis) – in feed for aquaculture animals. Adopted by the European Commission on 24 May 2017, the text entered into effect on 1st July 2017.
Download Regulation (EU) No 2017/893 amending Annexes I and IV to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001(see notably Annex IV, section F) and Annexes X, XIV and XV to Regulation (EU) No 142/2011 (see notably Annex X, chapter II section 1
- The European Commission services are currently exploring the possibilities for proposing a new revision of the feed ban rules in order to authorise pig and insect proteins in poultry feed.
The above section will be updated once further information is available.
For further information about the IPIFF position concerning the relaxation of the EU feed ban rules and animal by products legislation – i.e. widen up the authorised feed markets and feed materials authorised as feed for insects – you may refer to the ‘IPIFF position on the use of insect proteins in animal feed’ (section ‘publications’).