The Future of Food – do we need to re-engineer food?

Dr Julian McClements has an impressive resumé. He is a distinguished professor at Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts; adjunct professor, School of Food Science and Bioengineering at Zhejaing Gongshang University, China; and a visiting professor at Harvard University. He has more than 1,000 articles published, with 80,000 citations in other peoples’ papers, as well as 12 patents. He also published the book Future Foods: How Modern Science is Transforming the Way We Eat. When he talks, people listen.
Read more

Could edible insects help global food security?

Adelaide consumers are taking part in a University of Adelaide research study to help realise the potential for edible insects as a food industry.

Researchers will put consumer attitudes to the test at Adelaide Central Market this Thursday 8 June and Friday 9 June with an offering of roasted crickets and ants, mealworm cookies and cricket energy bars.

“We want to further investigate consumers’ attitudes towards edible insects, evaluate taste preferences and consumers’ willingness to buy such products,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Anna Crump, who’s working on the project with project leader Associate Professor Kerry Wilkinson and other researchers from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and the School of Humanities at the University of Adelaide.

“We will also be asking consumers questions relating to food neophobia – reluctance to eat novel or new foods. We’ll be interested to see if a consumer’s ethnicity influences their acceptance of edible insects.”

 In a preliminary online survey of 820 Australian consumers, the researchers found that 20% had tried edible insects. Of those surveyed, 46% said they would be willing to try a cookie made from insect flour.

“In the earlier survey, consumers said they were most likely to try flavoured or roasted insects and least likely to want to try cockroaches or spiders,” Dr Crump says.

 “In this taste test, we’ve chosen products that consumers are most likely to react positively towards – apologies to anyone keen to try a cockroach or spider. The samples we’ll be offering consumers provide a good spread of the available insect products in Australia’s marketplace, some of which may be more acceptable than others.”

 Dr Crump says the research will help guide the development of an edible insect industry.

 “In Australia, edible insects remain an emerging agricultural industry. Consumer research is needed to improve consumer acceptance of edible insects, so as to realise their potential as an alternate protein source,” she says.

 “We hope to be able to pinpoint target markets for edible insects and ways of encouraging their uptake by consumers as an alternative protein source.

“As such, this research will help to identify strategies for realising the potential of edible insects, not only in the domestic market, but also as a high-value product for the export market.”

 Associate Professor Kerry Wilkinson says edible insects could play a role in global food security.

“Issues such as climate change, increasing global population, scarcity of agricultural land and rapidly changing consumer preferences, particularly in developing countries where there is increasing demand for high quality animal protein,” Associate Professor Wilkinson says.

 “These food security issues will only be overcome by a shift in food consumption habits, particularly when we are talking about meat consumption. Edible insects could provide one solution. We want to look at ways of overcoming barriers to insect consumption in Australia.”

European push for more edible insects

At its General Assembly meeting held on 19 September, IPIFF – the European Umbrella Organisation representing the interests of Insect Producers for Food and Feed – called for regulatory changes so as to authorise insect proteins as fish feed.  IPIFF also underlined the need for guidance & collaboration in the preparation of ‘novel food’ applications.

“IPIFF puts the safety of our food and feed first,” said Antoine Hubert, IPIFF President. The IPIFF members producing insects for the EU market only use plant based material as input, for which the European Food Safety Authority found no risk as long as producers comply with best hygiene practices for the rearing and processing of their animals (opinion from 8 October 2015).

“This is precisely the case of the IPIFF members who comply with very stringent risk management procedures, in accordance with the EU food and feed safety legislations,” added Hubert.

For Tarique Arsiwalla, IPIFF Vice President, “the fulfilment of these conditions should pave the way for the authorisation of insect PAPS as feed for aquaculture animals.”

For IPIFF, “a new ‘status quo’ on this issue would hamper the growth of the EU insect producing sector which has a leading global position, whilst restricting the availability of this promising source of protein for EU farmers & customers,” added Arsiwalla.

Europe is highly dependent on protein imports (70%) and re-equilibrating this protein imbalance is among Europe’s priorities. Furthermore, allowing the use of insect PAPs in aquaculture will accelerate investments in and further growth of the EU insect producing sector, which has a leading global position.

Finally, IPIFF underlined the importance of establishing workable rules for insect producers who are seeking for an authorisation to market their products as food under the new EU Novel Foods legislation.