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European Union Food safety Hungary News

The EU just approved mealworm as a food, but Hungary opposed the new mandate

European protein supply does not justify the move

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Dénes Albert

The European Union has just authorized mealworm larvae to be marketed as food in the future, marking the first time that an insect species has received an EU permit as a food source, Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet reports.

A majority of member states voted in favor of placing it on the market proposal on Tuesday, making mealworm larvae a ‘novel food’. The insect will be marketable both as a raw food material and in processed form.

The EU decision applies to all member states, although Hungary opposed the permit, the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih) said in a statement, adding that in Hungary’s view, there is no protein shortage in Europe that would justify the use of insect proteins for food. Moreover, the continent has no tradition of consuming such protein sources.

Nébih also stressed the importance to perform appropriate food chain safety research, labeling, and education tasks prior to the introduction of these protein sources. The mealworm larva is the first edible insect to be placed on the market throughout the EU.

Reducing or eliminating meat consumption long-term goal of the left

Left-wing publications have now been promoting eating insects for years, such as the New York Times. The publication has run articles such as, “Why Aren’t We Eating More Insects?” and “Lesson of the Day: ‘How to Develop an Appetite for Insects’”.

There are fears that the political elite of the West will raise taxes on meat consumption, effectively bankrupting farmers involved in rearing cattle and other animals, who already often struggle to make a profit, while simultaneously introducing cheap alternative insect-based food that will remain untaxed, all in the name of the green revolution. In such a scenario, only those with higher incomes could afford meat on a regular basis. 

A “meat tax” is already being discussed in countries such as Germany, with the proposal receiving support from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Green Party, and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), while opposition parities Alternative for Germany (AfD) and die Linke came out against the proposal. 

However, governments could face fierce opposition to plans to reduce or eliminate meat from the diets of their citizens. One poll conducted in Australia found that 73 percent of surveyed men would rather die 10 years early than give up steaks and burgers. While 81 percent in the survey said they cared about the climate, 78 percent said they would not consider giving up meat. 

Europe says bugs are ‘fit for human consumption’

Prior to the vote, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its position statement published in January, declared the food made from the larvae of the mealworm are fit for human consumption. The EU agency has prepared a report on the application for a community authorization.

The official resolution gave a green light to the food industry’s use of the mealworm flour, as the agency believes that insect larval preparations are safe, healthy and high in protein under certain breeding and preparation conditions.

EFSA scientists pointed out the clear environmental benefits of insect-based proteins compared with traditional animal proteins, while also acknowledging the cultural challenge to introducing insects as food.

“There are cognitive reasons derived from our social and cultural experiences, the so-called ‘yuck factor’, that make the thought of eating insects repellent to many Europeans. With time and exposure such attitudes can change,” Giovanni Sogari, a social and consumer researcher at the University of Parma wrote in the EFSA report.

Title image: Burger with mealworm as its main component. (Marius Wenk, Wikimedia Commons)