By Chiara Suprani
Southeast Asia shows possible developments in the global food market. Applications for cricket flour could be countless in the Italian market, such as being used as a base or addition to cereal bars, or whey powder
As of 24 January 2023, the European Union allowed the buying and selling of flour products from Acheta domesticus, or more commonly, house cricket. Two days later, the marketing of Alphitobius diaperinus, the lesser mealworm, was launched. Brussels believes that insects are a viable alternative to increasing the costs of animal meat production, both because of their lower environmental impact and because of their protein supply, which is higher in percentage than that of animals. But while the applications for cricket flour could be countless in the Italian market, such as being used as a base or added to cereal bars, or to whey powder, a Coldiretti survey revealed that 54% of Italians are against the inclusion of cricket flour in their diet. Introducing insects, or novel foods, into the food market requires specific labeling requirements especially for allergenicity, but not only. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is aware that at the current stage, the consumption of insects on the European market is limited, but the potential and benefits are there, as are the risks, especially when legislation is not yet defined. Due to different eating habits, legislation for insect consumption is more advanced in South-East Asia. In Thailand, edible insects fall under the Food Act B.E. 2522 (1979), which is the general law regulating food quality and integrity. Also in Bangkok, on 29 March, SPACE-F, Thailand's first global food-tech startup incubator and accelerator programme, the result of a partnership between the National Innovation Agency, Thai Union Group PCL, Mahidol University, Thai Beverage PCL and Deloitte Thailand, launched a mentorship programme for FoodTech startups with the aim of making Thailand the world's first foodtech hub. Earlier this year, the Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry successfully secured USD$4 billion worth of investments from three novel food and food tech companies: Sea Ltd, Yondr Group and Inseact. The latter specialises in insect proteins for animal feed and aquaculture and plans to open a production plant in Johor, Malaysia, the first in the region, to meet Asia's growing demand for sustainable food sources.