EFSA opinion – Risk profile related to production and consumption of insects as food and feed

On 8th October the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published the following scientific opinion about the consumptions of insects as food and feed.

The European Commission (EC) asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the microbiological, chemical and environmental risks arising from the production and consumption of insects as food and feed and to cover the main steps from the production chain up to consumption by pets, food producing animals and humans. EFSA was requested to provide an overall conclusion based on the above assessment, on the potential risks posed by the use of insects in food and feed, relative to such risks posed by the use of other protein sources used in food or feed.

In agreement with the EC, this opinion has the format of a risk profile including considerations of hazards associated with insects as food and feed, placed in the context of hazards associated with other sources of protein. The mandate also considers potential risks arising from importation of insects and products of insects from countries outside the EU, but not the importation of live insects. Health or welfare of insects, hazards related to insects harvested from the wild, nutritional value of insects as food and feed and occupational hazards are outside the scope of this opinion.

This opinion is based on data from peer reviewed scientific literature, assessments performed at Member State level and information from relevant stakeholders that were invited to provide information as hearing experts at a working group meeting. All data and information are compiled in the format of a risk profile. The risk profile addresses biological hazards (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, prions), chemical hazards (heavy metals, toxins, veterinary drugs, hormones and others) as well as allergens and hazards related to the environment.

It is concluded that for both biological and chemical hazards, the specific production methods, the substrate used, the stage of harvest, the insect species, as well as the methods used for further processing will all have an impact on the possible presence of biological and chemical contaminants in insect food and feed products.

The opinion addresses the potential occurrence of hazards in non-processed insects, grown on different substrate groups, in comparison to the occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin.

When currently allowed feed materials are used as substrate to feed insects, the possible occurrence of microbiological hazards is expected to be comparable to their occurrence in other non-processed sources of protein of animal origin. The possible occurrence of prions in non-processed insects will depend on whether the substrate includes protein of human or ruminant origin. Data on transfer of chemical contaminants from different substrates to the insects are very limited. Other relevant substrates and the possible occurrence of hazards are considered and summarised in the opinion. Substrates like human and animal manure are also considered. For both biological and chemical hazards their possible occurrence in non-processed insects fed on such substrates needs to be specifically assessed.

The environmental risk of insect farming is expected to be comparable to other animal production systems. Insect waste may contain insects and insect material. The adoption of existing waste management strategies should be applicable for managing waste from insect production. Assessment of the individual production systems will determine the precise strategy to be adopted on a case by case basis.

The opinion also notes the knowledge gaps and uncertainty related to possible hazards when insects are used as food and feed and concludes that there are no systematically collected data on animal and human consumption of insects. Also, there are only a few studies on the occurrence of microbials potentially pathogenic for vertebrates as well as published data on hazardous chemicals in reared insects.

Further research for better assessment of microbiological and chemical risks from insects as food and feed including studies on the occurrence of hazards when using particular substrates, like food waste and manure is recommended.

(Source: EFSA Website)

FVO – Bovine meat in Brazil

The report describes the outcome of an audit carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) in Brazil from 15 to 28 October 2013. The objectives of the audit were to evaluate the operation of controls over the production of fresh bovine meat destined for export to the European Union (EU), as well as certification procedures and to follow up the measures taken by the Brazilian authorities to address the recommendations outlined in audit report DG(SANCO)/2012-6370 – MR Final.

The FVO audit team noted that in the period 2012-2013 the Competent Authority (CA) carried out 10 % or more re-audits of the cattle holdings listed in TRACES in all approved Brazilian States. With the exception of three cases, controls carried out at the holding by the certificadoras and the CA were found to be satisfactory. However, the need to strengthen the procedures in place was identified by the FVO audit team. The Brazilian CA informed the FVO audit team that the procedure to integrate different IT applications into a single database to include animal health control, animal identification and registration, animal movement and certification, has progressed significantly.

The meat establishments visited were mainly in line with the general and specific hygiene requirements.
Deficiencies were identified by the FVO audit team in relation to the de-hiding process in three establishments, the working of sterilisers in two establishments and pest control in one establishment. The official controls in meat establishments were carried out in accordance with the relevant procedures and adequately documented. Nevertheless the deficiencies mentioned above had not been identified by the Food Business Operator (FBO) or the CA.

Ante- and post-mortem inspection, including the verification of the food chain information were carried out in accordance with the EU requirements.

In the establishments visited the procedures based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), traceability and maturation of beef were implemented and verified by the CA and were found to be satisfactory.

The microbiological testing of carcasses regarding testing methods, parameters, sampling and sampling frequencies were still not in line with the requirements laid down in Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005. The CA confirmed their position to the FVO audit team and considers their guidelines for microbiological testing of carcasses to be EU equivalent. Nevertheless the CA has not yet sent a request to DG SANCO to have their guidelines recognised as EU equivalent.

Water testing was carried out in line with the requirements of Council Directive 98/83/EC. Animal welfare controls remain as previously described. The stunning process and the controls at slaughter were satisfactory.

The certification of fresh bovine meat in the establishments visited was satisfactory. For the consignments verified by the FVO audit team, the officials were able to demonstrate that the certificate conditions were met, with the exception of one case.

The FVO audit team visited the two establishments which have been at the origin of numerous Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) alerts in 2013 due to the presence of Shigatoxin-producing E-coli (STEC) in chilled boneless beef sent to the EU. These two establishments are now under the re-enforced control procedure for their consignments entering the EU. The reaction of the Central Competent Authorities (CCA) was slow and it took more than two months for the establishments to be officially notified. An official answer from the CCA to the Commission services was only sent in October 2013. Meanwhile, the establishments had already started implementing initial actions to address the issue. As new RASFF alerts were notified, the establishments reviewed and further developed their initial action plan. The reviewed action plan has been implemented since mid-October 2013. Since then and up to the date of the on-the-spot visit, no meat produced after this date from these establishments has entered the EU.
In addition to the actions initiated by these two establishments, since 16 September 2013 the CCA is implementing a country wide monitoring programme with the aim of identifying the presence of STEC.

A number of recommendations have been made to the CA with a view to addressing the deficiencies identified during this audit.

Specifically, to consider improving procedures in order to make a proper risk evaluation of Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed alert and to react appropriately and timely to the issues identified.