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Awaiting approval: Edible insects

On June 15th 2022, the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) board will meet to discuss the Novel Food Applications Act to which edible insects are included. HOP, like many businesses alike, have been awaiting a decision from the Food Standards Agency in hopes of being given a blanket approval to trade across the UK.

A recent statement from the FSA, said that The Food Standards Agency (FSA) took the responsibility of managing risks in the food chain from the EU. We inherited a list of permitted regulated products (e.g., food and feed additives) which are in EU retained law…. We are also responsible for assessing applications and making recommendations to Ministers for any changes or new authorisations in this area.

Currently, there are 42 novel food applications awaiting approval from the FSA, with only 9 approved and yet, despite the challenging wait, it is hoped that a blanket of approval for novel foods will be announced on June 15th 2022 as the FSA highlighted in a paper of international objectives and priorities set out by Professor Robin May that “The UK’s exit from the EU makes the FSA’s role as a regulator for the food system even more important. We need to take a more prominent role to demonstrate our confidence in our food systems, our expertise and our ability to highlight and tackle problems where we see them.”. The FSA also said “this is a timely moment to consider how to optimise regulatory frameworks to ensure that innovative food products can move swiftly and safely to market. Whilst science is only one part of the regulatory pipeline, it is critical that our risk analysis process continues to exploit the most advanced and robust research, wherever it may be found in the world.”

As insects become a more valuable asset for the economy, Professor Robin May said “Longer-term, the joint pressures of sustainable production and improved human health are driving rapid innovation within the food system, and it is important that our science base keeps pace. I am delighted that FSA will be hosting a workshop in July for industry colleagues working on ‘alternative protein’ products (insect-based proteins, cultured meat, plant-based proteins, etc) in order to provide guidance on taking these products swiftly through the authorisation process on their route to market. This is, I hope, the first of what will be a series of such events aimed at expanding our ethos of ‘Helping business do the right thing’ to our new strategic aim around health and sustainability.

To further support edible insect approval, HOP’s Co-founder, Dr Geoffrey Knott, said “I hope the FSA prioritises reforming the EU Novel Foods regulation to support - rather than hinder - food innovation. Our edible insect small businesses pioneering improved food sustainability, health impacts, and security need the FSA’s backing. We have positive ideas and are keen to discuss suitable reforms that retain our world-leading food standards whilst facilitating high-impact and innovative edible insects to enter and improve our UK food system.”

As we await the final decisions of the report, there is no doubt that the edible insect community, along with food innovation, is growing at an exponential speed. A new project conducted by Dr Christopher Bear from Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning has been exploring edible insect production in the UK in order to gain an understanding of how people perceive edible insects with a specific research area focusing on the younger generation. The research plans to “explore the role of formal education in empowering young people’s engagement with, and action on, complex claims around sustainable food systems”.

From research to revelations, the impending FSA news is on the top of everyone's mind due to the fact that it will open up a window of endless opportunities. HOP is at the forefront of revolutionary research and we are optimistic that FSA approval will herald the way forward for our products to be released to the wider market and of course, fulfil our promise of revolutionary foods to kickstarter backers who have stayed faithful to us during this period of tough legalities whilst the future unfolds.

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