Warning: this story might make you slightly antsy.
The European Union’s top food watchdog has declared the yellow mealworm safe for human consumption, clearing the way for its arrival at the dinner table.
Depending on where you live, insects might already be part of your diet. Today, more than two billion people around the globe (primarily in Asia, Africa, and South America) consume insects.
Crawling In This Direction: In the west, the market for insects (while still small) is evolving quickly. In 2017, the European commission said it would allow the use of insects in fish feed and in 2018 Brussels established a formal regulatory framework for the sector.
Yesterday, the EU Food Safety Authority approved an application from French insect farm Micronutris — one of the early players in the space. Micronutris plans to use mealworm larvae as a protein powder additive in snacks, bars, and other foods.
Now, analysts say the insect farming business is buzzing with potential:
- Analysts at Barclays believe the market for insect protein could rise to roughly $8 billion by 2013 from $1 billion today.
- EU-based venture capital firms poured $177 million into insect startups last year, and food giants such as Cargill and Nestle aren’t far behind.
With more and more focus being placed on the sustainability of food production, some analysts see potential in insects. Insects have a high nutritional value and are relatively sustainable to produce.
No bugs here: The U.S. has been slower than our counterparts across the pond in embracing bugs in food. American companies invested just $17 million in bug startups last year and the FDA has yet to issue concrete regulations on edible insects.
The Takeaway: Don’t bug out—this won’t be showing up at your local grocery store any time soon.