Quantitative allergenicity risk assessment of food products containing yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor)

Food Chem Toxicol. 2020 Aug;142:111460. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2020.111460. Epub 2020 Jun 4.


Insect-based foods are starting to enter the EU market, raising concerns about their safety. Allergic consumers might be exposed to even a greater risk, since insects have proven to trigger allergic symptoms, particularly in patients sensitised to crustaceans. Current legislation does not enforce producers to include insects in the list of allergenic ingredients. Food allergenicity risk assessment (FARA) is still at its infancy, and the debate on the need to define allergen thresholds is open. In this paper, we aimed at applying the concepts of stochastic quantitative FARA to describe present and future scenarios of exposure to foods containing Tenebrio molitor, the yellow mealworm. According to our risk characterisation, mealworm-based food products represent a major risk for individuals allergic to crustaceans to develop symptoms after the consumption of a dose lower than a serving size. Moreover, other allergic consumers might be at risk. A correct labelling of insect containing foods would help safeguarding the health of EU allergic consumers. Quantitatively assessing the risk of allergenicity provides a clear description of the problem, facilitating the decisional process of the risk manager, supporting the implementation of effective allergen management procedures and limiting the phenomenon of uninformative precautionary labelling.

Keywords: Allergen thresholds; Food allergenicity risk assessment; Insect food.