Frequently Asked Questions about insect food

Food made from insects and food safety

How can you tell whether an insect is edible?

The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has prepared guidelines for insect production intended for both insect farmers and food control authorities. The guidelines specify how insects should be farmed and prepared in order to be sold or served as food.

Are there limitations for serving foods made from insects in for example families with children?

Evira has not issued any instructions or recommendations for different population groups, such as children for example, on the suitability of foods made from insects.  Based on the information available at the moment, the use of cultivated and processed insects as food does not have to be limited. Should there be a need for limitations later, Evira will update the recommendations for that part.

Can insects cause allergies?

It is possible to be allergic to insect food. Food allergens are proteins. Sensitisation to insect proteins is possible, just like to any other food proteins. The proteins that insects contain are similar to the proteins of e.g. crustaceans and molluscs. Thus persons who are allergic to prawns, for example, may have an allergic reaction from insect food.

Will the insects produced by insect farmers be checked to ensure consumer safety?

Insect farmers and manufacturers of insect products are responsible for ensuring that the foodstuffs produced and marketed by them are safe for consumers. Insect farmers are controlled in the same way as other food business operators.

May the decorative kitchen items on sale be moved to the foodstuff shelf?

The sale and use of insects as food only applies to insect products made and controlled in compliance with food legislation. An insect farmer must be a registered food business operator. Products placed on the market as products other than foodstuffs may not be sold as food.

 

Primary production

Which notifications must be submitted by insect farmers?

Operators who raise insects for use as food, i.e., primary producers, need to register as a primary production site with the food control authorities of their own municipality already before the start of operation. Producers already engaged in primary production of another production type, such as pig farming or glasshouse growing, need to amend their registration of a primary production site to cover also raising of insects for use as food. The amendment can be made by submitting a free-format notification to the municipal food control authorities. The primary producer also needs to register with Evira as a primary production operator in feed sector. Other authorities (e.g. building control, environmental protection) should also be contacted to find out about any other required permits and/or notifications.

Is it possible to cultivate insects and plants side by side in the same greenhouse?

In principle, it is not possible. It is difficult to organise the operation so that food safety is not endangered. For example dust from feed and straw formed in conjunction with the cultivation of insects will inevitably spread over plants grown on the same premises. Any pesticides/insect sprays used during the cultivation of the plants are a food safety risk when cultivating insects. The possible escape of insects from the cultivation boxes to the cultivated plants will also cause problems. If the greenhouse is on soil, there will inevitably also be other insects on the premises which will easily mix with the cultivated insects. They may also potentially transfer disease to the cultivated insects.

Can insects caught in the wild be cultivated for food?

Yes. But then there has to be absolute certainty of which insect species it is and that this particular species can be used as food. But only the next generation which has been cultivated in a breeding establishment from the start can be sold as food.

 

Processing of insects into food

Which notifications must be submitted by operators who produce insect foods?

Operators who process/produce insect foods need to register their food establishment operation with the food control authorities of their own municipality before the start of operation Registered food establishments already in operation wishing to start the processing/production of insect foods are not required to submit a new food establishment notification or notification of an essential change in operation. Insects are considered to be just raw materials, like e.g. eggs or milk. Therefore all that is needed is to take the use of the new raw material into account in the operator's in-house control plan.

Do food establishments wishing to process/produce insect foods need to apply for status of approved food establishment?

No they do not, as insect sector operators are not establishments. However, operators who process/produce insect foods need to register their food establishment operation with the food control authorities of their own municipality before the start of operation. Registered food establishments already in operation wishing to start the processing/production of insect foods are not required to submit a new food establishment notification or notification of an essential change in operation. Insects are considered to be just raw materials, like e.g. eggs or milk. Therefore all that is needed is to take the use of the new raw material into account in the operator's in-house control plan.

If a meat sector establishment wishes to use powdered whole insects as raw material for sausages, will this be approved as an essential change in operation?

An approval of the change need not be applied for to use powdered insects as raw material for sausages in a meat sector establishment. Insects are considered to be just raw materials, like e.g. eggs or milk. Therefore all that is needed is to take the use of the new raw material into account in the operator's in-house control plan.

May insects be ground into a meal?

Yes. For example, it is permissible to boil, fry, crush and season insects as long as they are intact. No parts may be removed from insects or used for extracting fat or protein fractions.

May fat or protein separated from insects be used in foodstuffs?

No. Insects must be used intact.

 

Import and export

In which EU countries is it permitted to produce and use insects as food?

In addition to Finland, Denmark, Holland, Austria, Belgium and Great Britain permit the production and use of insects as food.

Is import of insect foods authorised from other EU states?

The import of insect foods is possible from EU states where insects are included within the scope of food control. Importation is then considered comparable to control of places of first arrivals and guidelines related to such operation can be found here https://www.evira.fi/en/foodstuff/import-and-export/eu-member-countries-norway-and-switzerland/controlling-the-places-of-first-arrivals/

Is the exportation of insects to outside EU for use as food allowed?

The exportation of insects for use as food is possible. The requirements in force in the destination country for food imported to the country shall also always be verified prior to expertotation. Contact Evira, if you are planning to start exportation; send your inquiries to pk-vienti(at)evira.fi,  for example.