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EU food watchdog greenlights mealworms as human food

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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has greenlighted the use of dried mealworms (Tenebrio monitor) for human consumption, the Parma-based agency said in a risk-assessment opinion published on Wednesday, paving the way for the authorisation of these products before they can be put on the EU market.

“Insects are complex organisms, which makes characterising the composition of insect-derived food products a challenge. Understanding their microbiology is paramount, considering also that the entire insect is consumed,” said Ermolaos Ververis, a chemist and food scientist at EFSA.

The so-called “yuck factor”, that makes the thought of eating insects repellent to many Europeans was explained by Giovanni Sogari, a social and consumer researcher at the University of Parma, who said that “with time and exposure such attitudes can change.”

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Insect-based foods are actually rich in protein, fat and fiber and can be eaten whole or in the form of powder, given that their original fodder is free of contaminants, while according to Mario Mazzocchi, an economic statistician and professor at the University of Bologna, their consumption could contribute to tackling several sustainability challenges, as they produce less waste and result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

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