Edible Insects and Consumer Litigation

I have been blogging about government regulations in the US on edible insects. Current thinking is the the FDA/regulators will not press edible insects companies to stop making products. US Regulation

Today’s post will discuss the risk of consumer litigation for edible insect businesses.

Edible insect producers could experience class action law suits or individual lawsuits. The plaintiffs would need to prove damages and prove causation of injury. The legal structure of your business will affect your liability.

Is the FDA involved in consumer litigation? What can occur is that the FDA can send a warning letter… FDA Warning Letter to KIND via Food Navigator

Top 4 concerns for consumer litigation related to edible insects.

  1. Physical hazards – For example, dry roasted whole cicadas can be a choking hazard. Legs/exoskeleton can get caught in ones throat. It would probably not cause full obstruction of the airway. Objects that are round and the same size of the airway are more likely to cause blockage. A stuck leg could cause other foods to get stuck also. See The American Academy of Pediatric Policy Statement on choking prevention. I feel a choking hazard warning is not needed. If a piece of insect gets trapped in ones throat and doesn’t go away then, I recommend that the consumer seeks medical attention to have it removed. Very annoying but not likely to cause long term harm.
  2. Asphyxia– Insect are a potential food allergen. More info on insect allergens.
  3. Antinutrients – Not well studied and would be difficult to prove harm.
  4. Claimscricket front label frozen warning
    1. Nutrient claims – The nutrition facts panel of a processed food need to be accurate. One of the benefits of edible insects is the protein and mineral content. Nutrient contents of insects can vary greatly by species and how they are grown, harvested and processed. Accountability falls to the consumer goods company and not the suppliers or manufacturers. Front of package claims must be in line with regulations. FDA’s Food Labeling Guide
    2. Animal welfare – We know that cricket can be cannibals if they don’t have enough space or food. How can we qualify that the crickets are being raised and harvested humanely?
    3. Sustainability – Companies often promote environmental benefits on their website as a key feature of their product. Do insects meet third party standards for sustainability? Report Debunks Walmart’s Claims of Sustainability and Fairness in Its Food Supply Chain

The best way companies can manage risk from consumer litigation is to use an allergen warning. Secondly, any claims must be supported with data and documentation.

Did I miss anything? Should industry be using a choking hazard for whole orthoptera products?

Let us know in the comments.

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