Have you ever been sitting on the couch, ready to put on your favorite movie, you head over to the fridge, and just wish you had a nice, juicy packet of mealworms to snack on? Well good news! The EU has recently approved yellow mealworms to be safe for human consumption, and the tasty treat will soon be hitting supermarket shelves. This marks the first time insects have received such approval, with others expected to follow close behind.
Of course, the idea behind swapping a beef burger for a mealworm burger alternative makes many people recoil, but there is a good reason behind their approval. Insects are a brilliant source of protein, and in an age of rapid population growth in almost every nation on earth, provide an opportunity for mass production of food in areas that struggle to keep up with demand.
Whether they are whole or powdered to create food such as burgers or pasta, yellow mealworms are now considered ‘novel food’ - that is to say, it is a new food substance not recognized by regulation before. However, for many nations, eating insects is not a new concept. According to the report, 2.5 billion people globally regularly eat insects, called entomophagy, but it is a trend that has failed to catch on in Western nations.
Many food experts, and even chefs, want to change that. Some US chefs have already taken to cooking up the tiny morsels into up-market dishes to combat the instant repulsion many people get. Start-ups have opened, selling different gourmet meals and snacks for both humans and dogs, touting it is a cheap alternative to getting vital nutrients at a cheap price.
As result, large-scale insect farms have received millions in funding recently as they mass produce different types of grub. Ynsect, a France-based global leader of insect protein, now produces 1500 metric tons of mealworm protein a month at one plant after significant investment from the EU in 2019. Companies such as Ynsect claim that insect produce should be an important source of food for the ongoing population boom, with 9 billion people estimated to be alive by 2050.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approving mealworms means they can now be sold in all European countries. Such products are currently sold in the U.K., Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Finland, but access to other countries has been limited by the EFSA.
So, will you be snacking on mealworms when they hit stores near you?