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Legislation hinders use of in-feed bugs

Recently I have been attacked by insects, not literally by the animal, but by information surrounding these bugs and their use as a valuable ingredient in animal and human diets. However, legislation is not that fast and their use in animal diets is still prohibited.

The FAO estimates that the world needs to increase its food production by 70% by 2050 in order to serve a global population of nine billion. Animal feed production is increasingly competing for resources (land, water and fertiliser) with human food and fuel production, urbanisation and nature. 70% of the world's agricultural land is already directly or indirectly dedicated to meat production. With a growing world population and increasingly demanding consumers, can we still produce sufficient animal protein in the future? We need to identify alternative protein sources with urgency, and insects have great potential in contributing to global food security.

Legislation issues on insects as feed

However, the production, trade and use of edible insects as food and feed touch on a wide range of regulatory areas, from product quality assurance to the environmental impact of insect farming. Consequently, one of the largest barriers to increasing consumption of edible insects, as well as their use as animal feed, is legislation. Regarding inclusion in animal diets, does insects fall in the same category as blood meal and fishmeal for example and what are the rules concerning using animal products for growing the insects? Currently, insects cannot be grown on animal based media and manure. A lot of questions are still unanswered regarding the use of insects in the feed of production animals. Insects can be used in food for pets. In addition, some EU legislation hinders the use of insects in animal diets. Think of the TSE legislation and the rules regarding the use of animal by-products.

The whitepaper on insects contains valuable information on the advantages and disadvantages of insects in animal feed. It also gives you a clear view on the current legislations and the changes that need to be made. Why are insects not allowed in animal feed?

Discussion paper
Many groups of experts gather to clarify these topics. The International Insect Centre is a great example. It serves a platform for anyone involved in the commercial production of insects. This centre wants to gather knowledge about issues such as quality control, legislation and consumer acceptance regarding the use of insects in feed and food. Also the FAO is very active in the discussion. It published a discussion paper, which provides a preliminary look at the regulations on the regulatory frameworks influencing insects as food and feed at international, regional and national levels. This study, however, is not exhaustive. It is a dynamic document which is open to suggestions from experts.

How to process insects for feed?

The practical aspects of using insects in animal feed (including storage, quality, processing etc) is also being investigated by a number of companies and research institutes. I recently visited the recently opened Feed Design Lab in the Netherlands, and testing insects in feed is one of their main priorities for the coming months. How are flies and meal worms holding when you heat them during the feed process and what is the best and most practical way to include them in the feed? All questions that need to be answered before its use can really take off. Also recently introduced, the first scientific journal on the use of insects in food and feed. The 'Journal of Insects as Food and Feed' will cover edible insects from harvesting in the wild through to industrial scale. At the end of the edible insect food or feed chain, marketing issues, consumer acceptance, regulation and legislation pose new research challenges.

Read: "Turning flies into valuable feed protein in South Africa"
Insects are slowly finding their way into feed formulation and should be processed into valuable feed ingredients. A South African company recently opened a new factory to do just that.

Large scale production
But it all starts with the production of the ability to grow insects on a large scale. Over the past five years insect production facilities have increased significantly, especially in Europe, North America, China, South Africa and Thailand but they are still not very big. I visited an insect producing farm in the Netherlands (Kreca).

11 comments

  • abdelfattah Mohamed Ali

    Although I understand the urgent request & search for animal protein but It is important to clear some points as Muslim peoples should care about it. The concept of food safety among those in charge of Muslim peoples is not limited to freedom of food from pathogens or pollutants only, but includes also required to have Halal food from the religion perspective.
    Based on the decision of the Council of Senior Scholars (no. 182) dated 12/04/1417 AH, which prohibit the importation of animal feed that knows that it is contaminated with illegal impurities (religion vie) such as pork, blood, and dead animals (except marine) and it is not allowed to add anything from these prohibited substances to the foods of animals and poultry for maintaining Muslims from eating the meat of these animals and poultry fed on feed containing illegal impurities or drinking milk of animals that fed on them.
    It is important also to know Gulf (GCC) standard No. GSO 1931/2009: Halal Food Part I: General requirements (Attachment 4), that the insects are not allowed legally as food directly to humans except locusts in accordance with item 6, while Item 7 and Item 8 they do not allow religiously feed human on repulsive creatures and animals that have been fed on filthiness.

  • Emmy Koeleman

    Dear Abedelfattah, thank you for your feedback. And indeed, the use of insects raise other (ethical) questions as well. The same accounts for lab grown meat for example. Will the Muslim society be willing to eat lab grown pork and the Indian society lab grown beef? By looking at feeding the world with new protein sources, we should definitely keep these issues in mind.

  • churng-faung Lee

    Dear Emmy:
    Thanks for your information. Please keep it. Last year, In our experimental dairy farm there was once grew a lot of fly bugs from the manure. We collected and analyzed and found it equals to the compositions of high quality fish meal. We are very excited about this finding and started to read the relavant paper. Our research project in raising bugs to decompose manure and changed to protein feed was rejected. It was advised to have more understanding about the security, regulation and consumer acceptance. I believe there are long way to go, but I think that is what we need to face sooner or later.

    Dr. Churng-faung Lee
    Nutrition Division, Livestock Research Institute
    Taiwan
    May 5, 2014

  • P. Williams

    The use of insects as a potential protein supplement should not be overlooked. However current production options are far, far from being able to produce the volume, consistency and safety essential for commercial production.

  • Emmy Koeleman

    Dear P. Williams, I agree. That was also said by the owners of the Kreca insect farm I visited this week. She mentioned: safety, cost reduction and harmonisation of rules across the EU as the main challenges to produce insects in large volumes. A quality hand book is already made by the Dutch insect producers.

  • H.A.E. VAN POPPEL

    Dear all,

    Very interesting subject. Please also view <www.millibeter.be>; with regard to 'Flanders innovation Hub for sustainable chemistry', who is already experimenting the applications and uses of by-products from insects for animal feed.

  • max williams

    this shit is stupid man who gives a fuck about any of this ?

  • Emmy Koeleman

    Dear Max, maybe when we run out of soy and fish meal, insects might come in handy. If you (or the next generations) give a *peep* about having a proper meal every day, we should care. Thanks!

  • hk Katz

    The FAO Conference 'Insects to feed the world' showed clearly insects as a protein source won't solve all problems but will contribute a singificant part to close the protein gap. Legislation in Europe is behind the state of the art. As a producer of insects for biological pest control (www.katzbiotech.de) and of feed from insects for farmed animals (www.hermetia.de) I can assure the safety and availability of products from insects. Heinrich Katz

  • Jose Madeira

    I just can't believe that EU legislation prohibits feeding poultry and pigs with insects! If you grow them in free range THEY WILL naturally feed on insects. And that's how they taste better, on their natural feed, not substituing insect proteins by GMO soya.
    Of course, feeding cows with insects (or with any other animal protein) could potentially lead to some other BSE, cows are herbivores.
    If we had stick to the 'natural' food chain for each species no issues like those would be on the table (literally).
    And, by the way, using amonia to recycle unusable meat and serve it in lasagnas or hamburgers, shouldn't this be an issue?
    So, if chicken raised on free range eat insects, it's ok as long as you don't raise the insects? If fly larvea eat manure and chicken are crazy for them it's dangerous because you fed the larvae with manure?
    Where's the good sense...

  • Edward Barnes

    Hi, dont forget that there is currently a consumer perception survey being run by EC funded PROteINSECT which is looking at the use of a range of protein sources including insects. If you want to have your say respond to the survey....link: http://bit.ly/1GZigAi

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