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Food Safety Focus (138th Issue, January 2018) – Food Incident Highlight

Insects Eating and Food Safety

Recently, the media reported the sale of bread made with crushed crickets in Europe which drew public attention again. In fact, the human use of insects as food (entomophagy) has a long history. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that over 1900 edible insect species (e.g. beetles, ants and grasshoppers) are eaten worldwide, which could provide a sustainable source of nutrition for a growing population. They could be sourced by wild harvesting, semi-domestication of insects in the wild, and farming.

Insects-eating is not risk-free. As any other food, edible insects may contain pathogens or parasites, so they must be handled under the sanitary standards and conditions. People who are allergic to crustaceans (e.g. shrimps and crabs) may also be allergic to edible insects -- both are invertebrates that may contain specific proteins causing allergic reactions. Traders shall ensure that all foods (regardless of edible insects) sold in Hong Kong are fit for human consumption and comply with local legislations, including labelling requirements for prepackaged foods.