Insect-eating by human – also called entomophagyis common to cultures in most parts of the world, including South America, Asia, Africa and New-Zealand.

Food operators are increasing their attempts to introduce insects into Western diets, for example presenting worms as a healthy substitute for meat and entomophagy as a solution to environmental pollution.

The recently adopted Regulation n°2015/2283 of 25 November 2015 on novel foods clearly indicates that any type or form of insect must be considered as ‘novel food’. According to this Regulation, a prior authorisation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is therefore necessary before putting on the market any kind of food products made from insects.

This regulation will apply as from 1 January 2018, meaning that only insects which have been authorised by the EFSA will be allowed to be marketed in the EU after that date.

According to the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC), the 10 following insects are however already marketed in Belgium as food products for human consumption:

Click here to view the table.

Can these insects remain on the market despite the adoption of Regulation n°2015/2283 and, if so, under what conditions?

On 26 April 2016, the FASFC published a circular providing a general overview of the applicable rules concerning insect rearing and marketing in Belgium and introducing a policy of tolerance which allows food products made from the above-listed insects to remain on the market until 1 January 2018, save for the following exceptions:

  • ingredients isolated from insects (such as protein isolates);
  • insects imported from third-countries (outside of the EU).

For other species of insects, a prior authorisation from the EFSA is necessary before they can be marketed as food products for human consumption.

Alongside compliance with an auto-control system based on the HACCP principles, the circular also highlights that food products made from insects must comply with general rules on food safety, traceability, hygiene and labelling.

Given the peculiar nature of such products, compliance with the applicable law may sometimes raise specific questions. As a way of example, concerning allergen warning, the FASFC advices food operators to put the following statement on the labels of food products made from insects: « people who are allergic to shellfish (and / or dust mite) can have an allergic reaction to insect consumption ».

This policy of tolerance does not mean however that the 10 above-mentioned species of insects will be fully and indefinitely exempted from the authorisation procedure for the placing on the market of a novel food provided for in Regulation n°2015/2283. On the contrary, food operators are encouraged by the FASFC to already take the necessary steps to apply to the Commission for obtaining the authorisation before the 1st of January 2018. A smooth transition can thus be assured between the regime of tolerance and the stricter regime of Regulation n°2015/2283.

In the meantime, do not hesitate to already buy and try cricket energy bars or grilled worms!

The Circular of the FASFC can be found here (in French) and here (in Dutch).

Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of 25 November 2015 on novel foods can be found here.