They have been eaten for years in some European countries and increasingly restaurants from Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Berlin or Copenhagen are encouraged to include grasshoppers or lobsters in their letter, not the sea, but the migratory insect.
Belgium became the first European country to break the taboo on the consumption of these species in December last year - recommended by the United Nations Food Organization (FAO) for being rich in protein - by authorizing ten insects that can sold for human consumption.
“We cannot accept a hypocritical situation where states in principle prohibit all insects as a product, but tolerate them. We wanted to eliminate legal uncertainty for food companies that are developing in this sector, ”said the spokesman for the Belgian food security agency, Jean-Paul Denuit, to Le Figaro newspaper.
Community legislation provides that novel foods placed on the market are subject to an evaluation by the Member States and the European Food Safety Authority until they are approved by the European Commission.
Belgium has been the first European country to authorize the sale and consumption of ten species.
If the country in question shows a significant demand for certain foods prior to 1997 in Europe, these can be marketed directly. But so far, no significant consumption has been formally proven.
The Belgian Federal Agency for Food Safety (Afsca) published in December 2013 a list of the species of insects that are already on the market.
Belgians will be able to buy or choose from a restaurant domestic cricket, African migratory locust, giant mealworms, buffalo worms, wax moths, basking lobster, striped cricket, small moth, or silkworm.
The Belgian initiative thus closes a legal vacuum in this country, where this type of insect has been consumed for years, although its commercialization has not yet been officially authorized in the European Union.
In Spain, the same legal limbo has brought insects to the letters of the restaurants, although officially they cannot be bought in a market. This is how the Mexican Punto MX, in Madrid, has included in his menu escamoles, ant larvae that in Mexico are considered a gastronomic delight.
"Last year we included them in the menu and people loved them," says Roberto Ruiz, chef of this restaurant It has become a must stop for Mexican delicatessen.
The larvae and insects sector is still a small sector, but companies are beginning to emerge that are committed to this type of food for human consumption. This is the case of the small company La Mexica, dedicated to the import and distribution of Mexican sauces in Europe.
Its founder, José Álvarez, obtained six months ago the first license from the Ministry of Health to introduce worm salt into Spain, the star ingredient of the mythical mezcal originating in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, which begins to equate tequila as a trend-setting cocktail.
"It was not easy to get the authorization, the Ministry of Health told us that we were the first to apply for it," says Álvarez, who although he has searched for potential competitors, "I think that for the moment we are the only ones. I know that other companies offer it, but because they bring it in the suitcase ”, he clarifies.
Others are dedicated to cultivating them, such as Insagri, which last summer became the first insect farm in Spain for human food and animal feed. This small business installed in the Malaga town of Coín grows crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, and soldier fly larvae. Most of its production goes out to France, the United Kingdom and Belgium, with a greater tradition of consuming insects.
The only condition that Belgium imposes for the consumption of the ten approved species is “the application of good hygienic practices, traceability, a mandatory notification, labeling and a work of self-control ”, according to the Belgian food agency has published on its website.
The farms for the breeding of insects must register with the agency and the processors and distributors will be obliged to request an authorization to put these products on the market.
United Nations green light
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) officially encourages the breeding of insects for human consumption on a large scale, with evidence that 2.000 billion people already eat them worldwide.
According to this organism, the advantage of migratory grasshoppers, crickets or lobsters with respect to meat is that they reproduce quickly and “have growth and food conversion rates with a weak impact on the environment throughout their life cycle”.
The UN experts also argue that these species "are nutritious, with a high presence of protein, fat and minerals, and can be eaten whole, in paste or powder or added to other foods."