Allergenicity is a topic that comes up often when discussing regulation of edible insect. Phil Johnson of UNL presented ‘Insects as a Potential Food Allergen’ at the IFT Annual Meeting symposium Challenges in Edible Insect-Based Food Industry: Farm to Fork
Phil Johnson is a Biologist by training and a food scientist by preference. After completing Undergraduate and Post Graduate degrees in molecular biology and biochemistry at Durham University and John Innes Centre, he went on to work on lipid synthesis and starch synthesis before setting on his current field of food allergy. Phil currently works within the Food Allergen research and Research Program at the University of Nebraska. Lee Palmer, a student in Phil’s lab is currently working on novel protein-rich foods, especially insects.
Here are the slides:
IFT17 Insects as a Potential Food Allergens PDF
Assessment of the Regulatory Framework Related to Using Insects as Food and Feed
This presentation was given at the Entomological Society of America 2017 Southwestern Branch Annual Meeting.
Here are the slides…
Food safety is a key concern when consumers make food choices. Most westerners are unfamiliar with how insects are used as food which casts doubt on their safety. Here are some key points of discussion.
- Insects are harvested and processed just like any other food.
- The insects are harvested specifically for human consumption
- They are free from filth and extraneous material.
- They are handled and processed using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and in compliance with food laws.
- People have been consuming insects as food for thousands of years.
- Insects have been an important part of our evolutionary diet.
- Today, insects provide necessary protein in some native diets.
- In certain places, insects are considered a delicacy.
- Over 2 billion people consume insects on a regular basis.
Some other thoughts…
Not all insects being consumed are farm raised. Imported products and even domestic insects are sometimes wild harvested. So a blanket statement saying that the insects we are distributing/promoting are all farm raised would not be accurate. Imported products are also more difficult to audit due to geographical and language barriers. Id love to hear more thoughts on how insects are being demonstrated to be wholesome and what documentation is available to support that.
It is important that insect processors and consumer goods companies have information about where there insects come from. I put together a questionnaire to help facilitate a dialog between the insect supplier and customer. It will also serve as a record.
Here is a link to the Word doc: Edible Insect Farming and Processing Questionnaire
Edible Insect Farming and Processing Questionnaire
- Describe the current Good Manufacturing Process (cGMP) used at the facility
- Describe the sanitation procedures
- Insect contact surfaces and equipment cleaning
- Environmental monitoring
- Are the insects clean and wholesome? Explain.
- Do they contain any external waste
- Are the insects raised specifically for human consumption
- What are the technical specifications of the product? Please attach a specification for each requested product.
- Protein content
- Please attach a pictures of the finished good including packaging and labels
- Describe the facility security
- Describe the rearing process
- Do you rear insects yourself
- Describe the feed.
- Feed ingredients
- Describe the housing
- Size(volume) per housing unit
- Surface area per housing unit
- Number of crickets per housing unit
- Are the insect treated humanely. Explain.
- Access to food
- Access to water/moisture
- Freedom to exercise instinctual behaviors
- Monitoring frequency
- Describe how the insects are harvested
- How are live insects separated from the remains
- Slaughter process
- Describe the storage conditions
- Describe the further processing
Let me know if I missed any questions.
Ive broken down the production cost into 3 parts – Food Ingredients, Packaging Costs and Overhead.
I have not executed yet so I might be off on my estimates. The overhead cost is modeled on producing 200 bottles using a commercial kitchen. Im overestimating the time is will take to produce 200 bottles which is really driving up the cost.
||$ Per Bottle
|Packaging – bottle
|Packaging – cap/reducer/wrap
|Packaging – label
|Total Packaging Cost
||Extended cost $/lb
|Total Overhead Cost
||$/Per bottle (5 oz)
|Production cost per bottle
There are a few other costs that need to be taken account for. Im concerned with distribution costs. Who will fulfill orders via direct online sale and how much will it cost to do so?
I have been blogging about edible insects for a couple years now. The end goal has been to start a food business. ‘Edible insects’ is an amazing niche with in the food industry that has so much potential. As an entrepreneur, its necessary to understand all the the risks you are taking when you start a business. That why many of my blog post have been on regulations. That being said, I feel that risks related to regulations are minimal when managed. As with any food food company, it is imperative that you are able to demonstrate that your product is wholesome and does not contain any public health hazards.
Finally, I have a product and a business plan that requires minimal capital and is low risk… Cricket Worcestershire Sauce.
- Its easy to make – some of the ingredient can be sourced in a pre-blend so its really easy to produce. Making significant quantities is manageable in a non industrial setting. This is important to manage initial capital requirements. A small run will also serve as a market test.
- Scale-able – This product can be scaled up to at a co-packer with out a hitch. (just need to find one that is OK with insects).
- Flavor focused – other products on the market only focus on protein and nutrients. One of the benefits of entomophagy is that insects taste great! I hope that Cricket Worcestershire Sauce sets the bar for flavor delivery by insects.
- Multi use – Cricket Worcestershire Sauce will be a conversation starter in you kitchen for weeks.
- Low cost of raw materials – cricket powder is a high percentage of the total costs. Because this is a multi use product, the margins can be relatively higher.
- Its safe – the pH is low (about 3.7) so its shelf stable.
- First step is to get all of the general business stuff squared away.
- Then make 200 bottles or 2,000 bottles?
- Im going to blog more about the business plan in future blog posts.
More information about Incredible Foods can be found at: https://incrediblefoods.wordpress.com/
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.
- 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.
- Asphyxia– Insect are a potential food allergen. More info on insect allergens.
- Antinutrients – Not well studied and would be difficult to prove harm.
- Claims –
- 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
- 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?
- 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.