Earlier this year, the European Commission approved additional insect species that can be marketed as food for human consumption. In this context, there has been a lot of misinformation across society, so here is an overview of how insects can be used in food according to the current legal regulation.
In this article, you will learn which insect species and how they can be marketed as food for human consumption, the procedure for placing new insects on the market and how food containing insects must be labelled.
Legal regulation – EU and national level
The marketing of insects as food is fully subject to EU legislation, namely Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the Council on novel foods, which replaced Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council on novel foods and novel food ingredients (“Novel Food Regulation”), which defines insects and insect products as novel foods.
The legal regulation of new foods, so-called novel foods, applies to foods for which there is no documented history of consumption before 15 May 1997, the date on which the above-mentioned Novel Food Regulation entered into force.
According to the Novel Food Regulation, only novel foods authorised and listed by the European Union may be placed on the market as such in the European Union or used in or on foods in accordance with the conditions of use and labelling requirements set out therein.
In view of the above, each insect species must first undergo an authorisation process and safety assessment under the Novel Food Regulation before it can be used as food for human consumption. The European Commission’s approval process is described in more detail below.
The Czech legislation for the use of insects in food does not have a special regulation and therefore it is necessary to follow the general requirements of the food law and the Novel Food Regulation.
If the supervisory authority in the Czech Republic discovered during an inspection that an ingredient of a food product is a type of insect that is not permitted to be placed on the market in the European Union, this would constitute a failure to comply with food safety requirements under a directly applicable European Union regulation governing food requirements, which could be qualified as an offence under Section 17 of Act No. 110/1997 Coll, on Food and Tobacco Products, as amended, which carries a fine of up to CZK 50,000,000 and a sanction in the form of a ban on placing the food on the market and withdrawal from the market.
Approved insect species
Currently, only the insect forms and species listed below are approved by the European Commission as they have already undergone the approval process and safety assessment under the Novel Food Regulation:
- frozen, dried, and powdered forms of domestic cricket,
- partially defatted house cricket powder,
- frozen, dried, and powdered forms of the migratory anemone,
- dried larvae of the mealybug,
- frozen, dried, and powdered forms of mealworms (larvae) of the mealworm,
- frozen, mushy, dried, and powdered forms of the stall-worm.
For use in food, it is necessary to comply with the mandatory and strict conditions laid down for novel foods. This may include, for example, the designation of specific categories of food to which these ingredients may be added, the maximum number of insects that may be added, or specific labelling and specification requirements for these foods.
At the same time, anyone intending to purchase, process, package, store, transport or otherwise market permitted insect species as food is obliged to apply for approval or registration from the locally competent Regional Veterinary Station before commencing such activities. Special requirements are also imposed on the hygiene of production and production premises and the rearing, packaging and transport of the insect species concerned.
From a labelling point of view, foodstuffs containing an authorised insect species must comply with the general food labelling conditions laid down in Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (the “Regulation on the provision of food information to consumers“), which establishes the basic legal framework for ensuring a high level of consumer protection in relation to food information and general principles, requirements and obligations in the field of food information, with a view to ensuring that food labelling is not misleading and does not mislead the average final consumer as to the characteristics of the food, and in particular its nature, composition, properties or method of production.
In view of the above, it is necessary to indicate the insect as an ingredient of the product in the ingredients on the label or any commercial communication. No other special requirements (e.g., special symbol) are laid down for foods containing the permitted species and form of insect.
Where insect species that may cause reactions in people allergic to molluscs are included in the food, a warning about the allergen must always be included on the packaging of the food.
Marketing of a new insect species
If an insect species that has not yet gone through the approval process is to be placed on the market as food, the food business operator must first apply for its inclusion on the EU list.
An application for authorisation of a novel food shall be submitted directly to the European Commission via the electronic submission system.
Each application goes through a rather complex approval process, where the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carries out a risk analysis and determines whether the consumption poses a risk to the consumer, which can take up to 1 year.
In view of the fact that insects intended for human consumption and products obtained by processing these insects are qualified as food of animal origin, their placing on the market is also subject to registration and approval by the State Veterinary Administration (SVA) pursuant to Section 22(1)(a) of Act No. 166/1999 Coll., Veterinary Care and on Amendments to Certain Related Acts, as amended.
Conclusion and future outlook
As can be seen from the above, it is currently possible to place on the market foodstuffs containing only insect species approved by the European Commission, provided that all requirements imposed by EU and national legislation are complied with.
However, in view of the growing demand from the consumer public for alternative foods, further specific legislation can be expected to be introduced to regulate the conditions for marketing these products, including their communication with consumers.
Although this may imply the introduction of further restrictive conditions for the marketing of alternative foods, specific legal regulation in this area will undoubtedly contribute to filling gaps in food law and avoiding unwanted confusion that often arises in application practice, both on the part of food producers and consumers.
We will continue to inform You about legislative developments in this area and if You have any questions related to food law issues, we are at your disposal, so please do not hesitate to contact us.
 EU, Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on 25 November 2015 on novel foods. In: eurlex.europa.eu. [online]. Available from: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32015R2283
Mgr. Tereza Dvořáková, attorney – email@example.com
Mgr. Jakub Málek, managing partner – firstname.lastname@example.org
19. 6. 2023