Bugs can be the sustainable contender to conventional meat. The newly introduced regulations make it easier for edible insects to enter the EU market, but the “yuck factor” is still a big obstacle to overcome.
Cranes are hard at work in in the windy harbor. Trucks in different shapes and sizes crowd the industrial area in north-west Amsterdam. One specific truck catches the eye – a food truck. It takes a left and enters a large warehouse home to more than twenty food trucks. The warehouse is busy. Some are working on perfecting their signs to attracts new customers, others are loading the back of the vans with beverages. The truck smoothly sails into its parking spot. On one side the quirky letters read “Bugzz”. And just as the name suggests, they serve edible insects.
“We mainly use grasshoppers and buffalo worms in our kitchen to cater for different events and festivals,” says a proud Patrick Hurd, co-founder of Bugzz Insecuisine.
In recent years bugs have appeared on the menu across Europe and been eaten in cultures all over the world for hundreds of years. The little creatures are a sustainable and healthy substitute to one of our biggest environmental villains: Meat.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the cultivation of insects produces up to 100 times less greenhouse gases than beef cattle or pigs. Growing bugs also use a substantially smaller amount of resources, such as space, food and water, than conventional meat. This makes it a sustainable contender to feed the worlds ever growing population.
“It’s not only the environmental aspects, insects are packed with nutrition beyond protein. They have calcium, iron and all the necessary vitamins. And they taste pretty good as well! More or less like nuts,” says a smiling and excited Hurd.
Previously the rules and regulations of edible insects have caused quite a bit of confusion. Can you market the little bugs for human consumption in all member states of the EU? Or is it prohibited by certain national laws? On January 1 new EU regulations came into force to regulate the market of edible insects and other novel foods, and hopefully give some clarity in the question.
Wolfgang Gelbmann is Senior Scientific Officer and an expert on novel foods at the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA).
“If you want to sell and market insects in Europe you need to submit an application to the European Commission, which then forwards it to us at EFSA if eligible. We then make a scientific assessment to ensure that the food is safe for consumption. In the case of edible insects we have received nine applications so far. If the applications are approved the products can go on the market in the entire EU, something which was not possible before,” he says.
Even if the new regulations and application process makes life easier for many innovative nutritional companies across Europe, there is still resistance and skepticism to serving edible insects on a plate. The cultural barrier is a tough one to demolish.
“People are lazy and don’t like change. That’s why it’s so hard to change eating culture and eating patterns. To get over the ‘yuck factor’, people have to give it a try! And they have to see other people doing it, whether it is in real life or on social media,” says Hurd from Bugzz.
New EU regulations are a step in the right direction to a more sustainable future. What now needs to change is people’s attitude towards the crawly creatures, yet Hurd is still very hopeful.
“I oftentimes compare it to sushi. When it was first introduced to Western culture there was a huge ‘yuck factor’.” says Hurd “No one could imagine eating raw fish. But look at us now. It is a question of persistence and availability.”