Safety of frozen and dried formulations from whole yellow mealworm ( Tenebrio molitor larva) as a novel food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283

EFSA J. 2021 Aug 25;19(8):e06778. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2021.6778. eCollection 2021 Aug.

Abstract

Following a request from the European Commission, the EFSA Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA) was asked to deliver an opinion on frozen and dried formulations from whole yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor larva) as a novel food (NF) pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. The term yellow mealworm refers to the larval form of the insect species Tenebrio molitor. The NF comprises the frozen and freeze-dried formulations of the yellow mealworm, whole or in the form of powder. The frozen formulation consists mainly of water, crude protein and fat whereas the freeze-dried formulations of crude protein, fat, digestible carbohydrates and fibre (chitin). The Panel notes that the levels of contaminants in the NF depend on the occurrence levels of these substances in the insect feed. The Panel notes furthermore that there are no safety concerns regarding the stability of the NF if the NF complies with the proposed specification limits during its entire shelf-life. The dried formulations of the NF have a high protein content, although the true protein levels in the NF are overestimated when using the nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor of 6.25, due to the presence of non-protein nitrogen from chitin. The applicant proposed to use the NF as whole frozen or whole dried insect, or in the form of powder, added as an ingredient to various food products such as cereal bars, pasta, meat imitates and bakery products. The target population is the general population. The Panel notes that, considering that the NF will not be the sole source of dietary protein, and the composition of the NF and the proposed conditions of use, the consumption of the NF is not nutritionally disadvantageous. The submitted toxicity studies from the literature did not raise safety concerns. The Panel considers that the consumption of the NF may induce primary sensitisation and allergic reactions to yellow mealworm proteins and may cause allergic reactions in subjects with allergy to crustaceans and dust mites. Additionally, allergens from the feed may end up in the NF. The Panel concludes that the NF is safe under the proposed uses and use levels.

Keywords: Novel foods; Tenebrio molitor larva; entomophagy; food safety; insect powder; yellow mealworm.