A SRUC academic is calling for GB regulation to be introduced for the sale and control of whole insects, and their ingredients, for human consumption.

Researcher Dr Pattanapong Tiwasing called on the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland to urgently introduce a new ‘Great Britain-specific transitional measure’ to enable the insect sector to survive in the UK.

The European Commission had approved the sale of whole insects and their ingredients subject to specific authorisations in 2018. However, following Brexit, this did not apply in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) where edible insects are not regulated, or approved for sale.

While edible insects have featured in Asian, African and South American diets for centuries, until recently they had been seen as a novelty food in Western countries – and are often linked to extreme eating challenges on TV shows such as 'I’m a celebrity – get me out of here!'.

Dr Pattanapong, who is originally from Thailand where eating insects as a snack is commonplace, said: “The introduction of new and developing EU regulations relating to edible insect products have muddied the waters, leading to confusing procedures for those looking to trade and export edible insects.

“This has been particularly impactful following the UK’s exit from the EU because it means there are currently no regulations for the edible insect (for human consumption) industry and it is, therefore, illegal to sell insects for human consumption in the UK. Policymakers need to take urgent action in order for the insect sector industry to survive in Europe and the UK.”

Researchers at SRUC had been awarded more than £10,000 to develop a strategy for using them in animal feed. The Innovative Knowledge Exchange award was funded by the SEFARI Gateway and will research the possibility of insect farming as a future solution to sustainable agri-food systems in Scotland.

Food Standards Agency (FSA) Policy Director, Rebecca Sudworth, said:  “A range of edible insects that fall within retained transitional measures can remain on the UK market while novel food authorisation is completed. However, when we left the EU, these transitional measures were not amended to require businesses to submit authorisation applications to regulators in Great Britain (GB).  

“Legislation to fix this technicality is due to come into force on 31 December 2022. This aims to bring edible insects in line with the novel food legislation in a timely manner and ensure it is clear which edible insect products can remain on the market and what steps businesses must take to be able to continue to market their products whilst progressing through the GB novel foods authorisation process. Relevant edible insect producers will have until the 31 December 2023 to submit applications for novel food authorisation to the Food Standards Agency or Food Standards Scotland."