Cricket powder in your pizza? Possible, but not “without your knowledge”
Will we soon be eating bug cookies “without our knowledge”? The fear spread like wildfire (of crickets) on Twitter or Facebook. On 3 January 2023, the European Commission authorized the marketing of “partially defatted Acheta domesticus powder (domestic crickets) as novel food”. This partially defatted cricket powder could then be incorporated into the food. “People will eat bugs without knowing it,” warns an article by e24, a Russian news aggregator, widely shared on social networks.
And for others, “the European Commission does not require specific labeling regarding possible allergic reactions, he is indignant in a viral post on Facebook. What about people allergic to crustaceans, molluscs and dust mites? They are likely to suffer from allergic reactions. The list follows, which follows that of the European regulation, of the so-called “generalist” and “soon to be marketed” products with cricket powder such as bread and focaccia, biscuits, pizzas, soups, chocolate sweets, etc.
In fact, the European Commission authorized the marketing of partially defatted cricket powder at the beginning of January. But this is neither the first nor the last beast to cross this milestone. Four types of insects have been authorized for distribution as food on the European market for two years. They have previously been reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which monitors the uses and potential toxicity of products, possible contaminants in food, etc.
In 2021, the dried larvae of the mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) obtained sesame from the European Commission in June and the migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), in frozen, dried and powdered forms, in November. Domestic cricket in frozen, dried and powdered forms was greenlit in February 2022; the powdered version of partially defatted crickets, which aroused so much reaction, was obtained on January 3, 2023. And on January 5, 2023, the larvae of the lesser mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus larvae), in frozen, freeze-dried, paste and powder , were allowed.
In each of its opinions concerning the placing on the market of insects, EFSA has concluded that their consumption can only cause allergic reactions in people allergic to crustaceans, molluscs and dust mites, the European agency tells us. Regulators in EU member states must take this into account with appropriate labeling if they decide to authorize the marketing of these products themselves.
A potential source of protein
The same goes for partially degreased cricket powder, contrary to what might be circulating on social media. Information is mandatory regarding allergens, both for pre-packed and non-pre-packed food products. “In the case of a baguette or bread that comes from the bakery and is not prepackaged, the mandatory allergen information must be available and easily accessible to consumers,” he explains to 20 minutes a spokesperson for the European Commission. It is up to the Member States to decide how to communicate this information to consumers. »
For both the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union, insects are seen as a potential source of protein that could ease the transition to a more sustainable food system. In its opinion, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considered that, under the proposed conditions of use and doses, the consumption of partially defatted house cricket powder did not “present a danger” in general.
An ingredient that may be allergenic and therefore must be reported
The only risk, as for other insects: it can cause reactions in people allergic to crustaceans, molluscs and mites, notes EFSA. Additional allergens can also end up in the new food if they are present in the substrate the insects are fed. The Commission has therefore indicated in its regulations that the presence of partially defatted cricket powder must be reported. Referring to the list of allergens, it will therefore not be possible to “unknowingly” eat a pizza made with partially defatted cricket powder.
The presence of the insect’s name in the list of ingredients “is not mandatory on non-prepackaged items, specifies the European Commission spokesman. However, again, it is up to the Member States to decide how to communicate this information to consumers. This presence is instead mandatory for pre-packaged products and will be indicated as “partially degreased Acheta domesticus (domestic crickets) powder”, also indicates the Commission regulation.
What the French regulations say
In France, the legislation on food allergens requires that the ingredient in question appear “on the label in the list of ingredients of the food product with a clear reference to the name of the allergen”, recalls the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumers and Frauds Prevention (DGCCRF) on its site. For prepackaged products, the presence of allergens must appear in the ingredients list and be written in bold, italics or underlined. For non-prepackaged products, “the presence of allergens must be made in writing, close to the product concerned, so that there is no doubt for the consumer”, underlines the DGCCRF.
From 24 January, partially defatted cricket powder will be able to be sold in Europe by the only Vietnamese company Cricket One, which had submitted its marketing application in 2019. Furthermore, not all biscuits, sandwiches, pizzas and other products authorized which will contain partially degreased parts of cricket powder, as the alarmist posts suggest. This is a marketing authorization: producers or bakers will be free to add them (or not) to their recipe, if they decide to buy them from Cricket One.