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)

Dupont wins a new health claim on lactitol

Following an application from DuPont Nutrition BioSciences ApS, submitted for authorisation of a health claim pursuant to Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 via the Competent Authority of the United Kingdom, the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to lactitol and the maintenance of normal defecation.

The scope of the application was proposed to fall under a health claim based on newly developed scientific evidence. The general approach of the NDA Panel to the evaluation of health claims applications is outlined in the EFSA general guidance for stakeholders on the evaluation of Article 13(5) and 14 health claims (EFSA NDA Panel, 2011a) and the guidance on the scientific requirements for health claims related to gut and immune function are outlined in a specific EFSA guidance document (EFSA, 2011c).

The food constituent that is the subject of the health claim is lactitol. The Panel considers that lactitol is sufficiently characterised. The claimed effect proposed by the applicant is “normal bowel function by increasing stool frequency, increasing stool bulk and moisture, softening stool consistency and reducing transit time”. The target population proposed by the applicant is the general population.

The Panel notes that the proposed claimed effect refers to the maintenance of normal defecation. The Panel considers that the maintenance of normal defecation is a beneficial physiological effect. A total of 15 human intervention studies were identified by the applicant as being pertinent to the health claim. The Panel considers that the outcomes measured in one study are not relevant to assess the claimed effect on the maintenance of normal defecation. Out of 14 studies, stool frequency was measured in 12 studies, stool consistency in 12 studies, stool bulk in two studies and transit time in three studies. In some studies, the effect of lactitol was compared with either the baseline value or a control placebo group, and in other studies lactitol was compared with lactulose, assuming that lactulose has an effect on defecation. The Panel notes that these studies were not designed as equivalence studies. Hence, no conclusions can be drawn from them for the scientific substantiation of the claim. The Panel also notes that transit time is not necessarily related to normal defecation. The Panel considers that no conclusions can be drawn from studies assessing transit time for the scientific substantiation of the claim.

In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that 12 studies with various methodological limitations consistently showed that consumption of at least 10 g/day lactitol increases stool frequency; that five out of six studies found that lactitol softens stool consistency; and that two studies showed that lactitol increases stool bulk. The Panel also acknowledges the plausible mechanisms of action by which lactitol could exert the claimed effect. The dose of 10 g/day lactitol does not induce diarrhoea.

On the basis of the data presented, the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of lactitol and the maintenance of normal defecation.

The following wording reflects the scientific evidence: “lactitol can contribute to normal defecation”. The claimed effect can be obtained by consuming 10 g of lactitol daily. The target population is the general adult population.

Read here the full EFSA scientific opinion.

(Source: EFSA website)