The prospects of insects as food and feed and the impact of Brexit at the core of the Royal Entomological Society’s latest conference

May 16, 2022
Sébastien Bouley

The conference was held on April 26th and 27th, and hosted a series of high caliber speakers.

On April 26th and 27th the latest Insects as Food & Feed (IAFF) conference, promoted by the Royal Entomological Society, was held. Over a total of two days, more than ten experts have been able to bring their own contribution on the various aspects that gravitate around the topic. In addition to the issue of the consequences of Brexit, sustainability, human (and non-human!) consumer acceptability, and insect sentience (i.e. their capability of feelings and emotions – see Lambert et al., 2021) were also discussed.

  • Edible insects: the state of the art and the perspectives

The keynote lecture was given by Professor Arnold Van Huis, from the Wageningen University (NL). In the course of his comprehensive description of the landscape of insects as food and feed, Professor Van Huis mentioned the environmental aspects of the topic, with particular reference to the good sustainability of the insect sector in terms of land area occupation, greenhouse gas release, and water needs, as was confirmed by his team.

  • Edible insects: the impact of Brexit

The opening of the second day has seen the intervention of Rachel O’Connor, from an international law firm, who spoke about the first significant divergences, arisen over the few months of actual Brexit-induced separation, between the European Union law and that of United Kingdom1 in the field of insects as food and feed.

As we have already exposed in our article on the impact of Brexit on insects as food, no insect species are formally authorized in the United Kingdom for the moment, as the first European authorizations occurred in 2021, when the separation was already in place.

The divergences extend to the domain of insects as feed. The British regulation on these aspects comes from EU regulation that was retained (for the meaning of retained EU law, see our article on Brexit); this includes Regulation (EC) 999/2001 which, as a reaction to the major health problem that affected the bovine world at the end of the ‘90, basically prohibited the use of animal by-products in the feed of animals involved in the human food-chain. Retained regulation also includes Regulation (EU) 2017/893, which introduced an amendment to Regulation (EC) 999/2001 by authorizing the use in aquaculture of processed animal proteins derived from seven insect species. However, in 2021, after the IP completion day, the publication of Regulation (EU) 2021/1925 added a new insect species to those allowed in the European Union, creating a discrepancy between UK and EU.

This divergence has come on top of the differences already induced by the publication, in the EU but not in the UK, of Regulation (EU) 2021/1372, also amending Regulation (EC) 999/2001, and introducing the possibility (accompanied by some clarifications) of supplying processed animal proteins derived from porcine animals to poultry and vice versa, and to feed to both categories processed animal proteins derived from farmed insects.

The following table resumes the convergences and the divergences between the UK and the EU when talking about insects as feed.

EU Regulations retained in the UK – prior to Jan 1st, 2021 (IP completion day) EU Regulations that did not have effect on UK – subsequent to Jan 1st, 2021 (IP completion day)
Regulation (EC) 999/2001

Prohibits the use of animal by-products in the feed of animals involved in the human food-chain

Regulation (EU) 2021/1372

Authorizes to feed porcine animals and poultry with processed animal proteins derived from farmed insects

Regulation (EU) 2017/893

Authorizes processed animal proteins derived from seven insect species in aquaculture

Regulation (EU) 2021/1925

Adds one more insect species to the ones that are allowed in aquaculture

Regulation (EU) 2021/1925 also defines the so-called “frass”:

A mixture of excrements derived from farmed insects, the feeding substrate, parts of farmed insects, dead eggs and with a content of dead farmed insects of not more than 5 % in volume and not more than 3 % in weight.

By defining it, the Regulation establishes its origin, the type of heat treatment to which it is to be subjected, and the rules of sampling and storage. As mentioned above, the Regulation does not apply in the United Kingdom, and the country does not have specific regulations on frass yet.

It is clear how little by little, but inexorably, regulatory divergences between the United Kingdom and the European Union are taking shape; the fact that the new EU regulations are not being followed closely by equivalent documents shows how ready the United Kingdom is to follow its own independent regulatory path.

  • To conclude

Among the many take-home messages from the conference on insects as food and feed, it is noteworthy that the field is set to expand and develop more and more in the years to come; the number of scientific publications, shown by Professor Van Huis, is growing steadily year by year, and, from an economic point of view, figures published by the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) in 2021 indicate investments in the field, in Europe, up to 1 billion euros in 2022, and an estimated 3 billion euros in 2030.


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1: this article will not enter in the specific issues linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol (explained here) and will simplify the matter by referring to the United Kingdom as a whole.