Recently there are media reports that insects were added in candies. Are insects edible and are there any food safety concerns?
Insects have been used as food in many places around the world, predominantly in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America and have long been a part of human diets. It has also formed part of traditional medicine in some places for thousands of years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) # more than 1900 edible insect species, including beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants, are consumed around the world and this number is increasing. As food, insects can be eaten whole or ground into a powder or paste, and incorporated into other foods. The FAO considers that t he exploration of large scale production of insects as food and the acceptance by general public could contribute to solving the food security problem due to the increasing world population. The use of insects as food has many potential environmental, health and social benefits, including that insect farming is less land-dependent than conventional livestock farming, and that insects provide high-quality protein and nutrients comparable with meat and fish. Insects also have high feed-conversion efficiency (i.e. an animal's capacity to convert feed mass into increased body mass) and thus are more efficiency in food production.
As insects are not commonly consumed food items in this locality, some people have raised food safety concerns on eating insects. On the food safety side, the FAO considered that there are no known cases of transmission of diseases or parasites to humans from the consumption of insects (on the condition that the insects were handled under the same sanitary conditions as any other food). Nevertheless, insects may be infected with pathogenic micro-organisms. If insects are consumed as food, it is important that the processing and storage of insects and their products should follow the same health and sanitation recommendations as for other traditional food to ensure food safety (e.g. to destroy pathogenic microorganisms by thorough cooking). Allergies may occur, however, that are comparable with allergies to crustaceans, which are also invertebrates. Therefore, consumers predispose to allergy should be cautious since insects have allergens in common with a number of other arthropods (e.g. mites, crustaceans, molluscs, etc). It should also be noted that insects can sometimes contain certain parts that may be hazardous (e.g. contain toxic substances) and additional measures (e.g. by removing the toxic parts) should be taken before consumption.
Members of the trade are reminded to ensure that the foods they sell are fit for human consumption and comply with local legislations.