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"Insect derived products can be used in nutritional and functional feed applications at competitive prices, whilst complying with the highest EU standards in terms of food and feed safety” Tarique Arsiwalla - IPIFF Vice-President

 

The challenge

Global population growth and increased welfare levels have led to a fast increase in demand for high quality foods. The FAO estimates that “global meat demand in 2030 will stand at 72% above the 2000 value”[1] whilst the aquaculture market is expected to grow 50% between 2010 and 2030.[2] The result is a big rise in demand for protein-rich feed.

To feed farm animals, the EU currently imports 40 million tonnes of crop proteins, primarily soya, each year. Given the price volatility of soybean meal the economic viability of the EU livestock sector is at risk. The same holds true for the aquaculture market, where the price of fishmeal, its main feed ingredient, has risen fourfold over the past decade.[3] There is thus an urgent need for an alternative source of proteins in feed, as well as for a meat-replacing food product. Insects offer a sustainable solution answering to both needs.

Insects as sustainable solution

Protein levels in insect meal vary between 40 and 75%, depending on the species and substrate used. This makes insect meal comparable and in many cases superior to soybean meal (50%) and fishmeal (60-70%). At the same time, while protein crops take up already 33% of all crop lands, insects-production takes up little space without requiring high-protein feed. As such the production of insects has a lower environmental impact than other feed sources.

                                                 

In addition, over 1900 species of insects are already eaten worldwide (van Huis, 2013) by around 2.5 billion people (FAO, 2013). This indicates their potential as meat alternative. Using insects as such would be highly beneficial, both to our planet and to consumers. To produce 1kg of beef-protein 80-170kg of CO2-eq. is emitted versus a mere 20kg for the same amount of insect-proteins (Oonincx and de Boer, 2012). Also the benefit to consumers is significant: insects are rich in protein, calcium and iron and low in fat and carbohydrates.  

                                    EU legislation

The insect sector is significantly hampered in its development by current regulations, both regarding food and feed. 

Feed
While purified insect fat & hydrolysed insect proteins are allowed to be used as feed for livestock, non-hydrolysed insect proteins can currently only be sold as pet food.

This is due to ‘legal gaps’ in the EU legislation which does not make the necessary distinction between insects and other non-ruminant animals. For example, it is currently allowed to feed (non-hydrolysed) non-ruminant proteins to aquaculture animals. However, despite insects being non-ruminant animals, insect proteins are not yet allowed in aquaculture feeds since they cannot be slaughtered in a registered EU slaughterhouse (see EU Regulation 999/2001). Currently IPIFF is advocating for the removal of this ‘slaughterhouse requirement’. This would open up the aquaculture market for insects fed on feed-grade materials.

Food
Since insects were not widely consumed in the EU before March 1997, insect-based foods are considered ‘Novel Foods’. As such they fall under Regulation 2015/2283 and require authorisation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before being placed on the EU market. The details of this regulation, such as the exact scientific requirements applications need to fulfil, are still being determined. Within this context IPIFF is in close contact with EFSA in order to ensure that these requirements can be implemented by the insect sector.

[1] UNESCO (Kanaly et al.), 2010, Energy flow, environment and ethical implications for meat production [link here]

[2] World Bank, 2013, Fish to 2030, prospects for fisheries and aquaculture (p. 39) [link here]

[3] Financial Times, 2014, Price of fishmeal tips scales against diners [link here]