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Heads up - this story could make you feel antsy.
The European Food Safety Authority has declared the yellow mealworm (the larval form of the mealworm beetle) safe for human consumption, paving the way for its arrival at the dinner table.
According to the UN, more than two billion people around the globe (primarily in Asia, Africa, and South America) already consume insects as part of their regular diet.
Crawling In This Direction: In the west, the market for insects (while still small) is evolving quickly. In 2017 the European Commission said it would allow the use of insects in fish feed, and in 2018 Brussels established a formal regulatory framework for the sector.
Yesterday's announcement from the EU Food Safety Authority pertained to an application from French insect farmer Micronutris — one of the early players in the space. Micronutris plans to use mealworm larvae as a protein additive in snacks, bars, and other foods.
Now, analysts say the insect farming business is buzzing with potential:
- Analysts at Barclays believe the market for insect protein could rise to roughly $8 billion by 2030 from $1 billion today.
- EU-based venture capital firms poured $177 million into insect startups last year, and food giants such as Cargill and Nestlé are racing to catch up.
With more and more focus being placed on the sustainability of food production, many analysts see potential in insects. Advocates point to high nutritional value and the relatively small amount of energy needed to produce insects at scale.
The Takeaway: No need to bug out quite yet - yesterday's safety news is just the first step in the authorization process. It will be some time before insects hit grocery store shelves.