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Novel Food: How good is pasta made from insect flour?

world pasta day - insect pasta

October 25 is World Pasta Day. We think that’s a good occasion to try out a new kind of noodles. How about insect pasta?

Edible Insects are in the trend: they are healthy, rich in protein and sustainable. Their cultivation is much more economical in terms of resources and produces fewer greenhouse gases than other animal protein sources. In many parts of the world, insects are a natural part of the diet. To boost demand in the Western world, too, there are an increasing number of foods made from processed insects, in which the creepy-crawlies are no longer recognizable as such. In powder or ground into flour, insects are available in the form of protein bars, cookies, snacks, chocolate, cereals, burger patties, bread and pasta.

Pasta with insect flour is a particularly trendy topic. There are now more and more suppliers of such insect noodles. They consist mainly of wheat or spelt semolina, enriched with around 10 to 15% insect flour – mostly ground crickets, mealworms or buffalo worm larvae. This makes them an ideal source of protein without tasting the insects. They are also visually almost indistinguishable from conventional whole-grain pasta. Anyone who wants to try the trend pasta will find a steadily growing range online and also in supermarkets.

Edible insects as a risk for people with allergies

Virtually everything that contains proteins also has allergenic potential – including insects. Allergies to insects such as caterpillars, mealworms or grasshoppers have been documented, but are rare in the Western world. Cross-reactions in people with an allergy to crustaceans, which like insects belong to the arthropod family, are more problematic. So anyone who is allergic to shrimp, crabs or even dust mites should be careful when eating insects. Allergen labeling for products containing insects is currently not mandatory in the EU, but most manufacturers indicate this on their products.

Quality assurance for insect-based foods

Since January 1, 2018, the current “Novel Food” Regulation has been in force in the EU, which explicitly defines certain insects as novel foods that thus require approval by EFSA. For this reason, it is important that manufacturers test their products accordingly. This serves to ensure that

  • the product is safe for consumption,
  • applicable laws are complied with,
  • food fraud is prevented,
  • the own brand is protected.

A suitable tool for the detection of insects in food is SureFood® ALLERGEN Insects, a real-time PCR for the direct qualitative detection of a specific DNA sequence of insects.