Microorganisms, fungi, algae - edible insects - are among the new types of food.

Novel foods - really so new?

Microorganisms, fungi, algae - edible insects - are among the new types of food. These foods are not really new, they have just never been used on a large scale in Europe or have not been considered for use in industry. Insec2eat deals with edible insects and the possibilities of incorporating them into the daily diet. Embark on a journey that could completely change your current view of these ideas. Have fun!


The consumption of insects (entomophagy) is by no means an invention of modern times. There are already references to the consumption of locusts in the Bible and the Koran. There is evidence of the consumption of locusts from Assyria as early as 700 BC. The Greeks and Romans were also known for their preference for certain insect larvae. To this day, the consumption of insects is widespread in many parts of the world and enriches the daily diet. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) advocates the consumption of insects in view of the growing world population. In Asia, Africa, North, Central and South America, even among the indigenous people of Australia, insects are an integral part of the cuisine. So why is there resistance to the consumption and market introduction of edible insects in Europe? There is a developed industry for insects as food, but mainly for the animal feed market. 

Why do breeders, producers and online stores that offer edible insects and products made from them lead a shadowy existence or only serve a niche market? There are many questions to be answered and reasons for the current market situation to be found. We will also take into account market developments on the continents mentioned above. However, our main concern is to find out why the acceptance of edible insects and their products is so low among the population. It will be equally important to take a closer look at this novel food in terms of its nutritional value, sustainability and economic viability. The breeding and analysis of insects before they are placed on the market should also be of interest to every reader. There are many exciting topics to clarify, of course taking into account experience and existing research results.

The historical development of insects as food

The historical development of insects as food

The human consumption of insects is not a modern phenomenon, but has a tradition dating back thousands of years. Eating habits can develop differently through culture. The culture of a people has in turn been historically influenced by religious beliefs. The human consumption of insects is addressed in the religious writings of the three world religions Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The third book of Moses in the Bible speaks of locusts as food. It is assumed that this context refers to desert locusts. There are also several references to the human consumption of insects in the Islamic tradition. Bees, locusts, termites, lice and ants are mentioned. Similar to the Bible, the majority of the Koran also refers to locusts, which are permitted for human consumption. Permission for entomophagy can also be found in the Jewish scriptures. The consumption of certain types of locusts is considered kosher and was widely accepted in ancient times. Nevertheless, consumption was rejected in practice by a large part of the Jewish religious community due to a lack of knowledge about the different species.

The history of entomophagy is well documented by Bodenheimer (1951). It is believed that as early as the eighth century BC in the Middle East, servants of the palace of the Neo-Assyrian king Assurbanipal in Nineveh, a city in modern-day Iraq, arranged locusts on skewers for royal banquets. The first evidence of entomophagy in Europe is in Greece, where eating cicadas was considered a delicacy. References to entomophagy continued over the centuries in all areas of the world. In the second century BC, Diodorus of Sicily called people from Ethiopia "acridophagi" or "eaters of locusts and grasshoppers". In ancient Rome, the natural philosopher, author and naturalist Pliny the Elder spoke of a much sought-after dish of the Romans called "cossus". Cossus is distinguished as the larva of the great oak longhorn beetle, which belongs to the longhorn beetle family.

The prevalence of insect consumption around the world is poorly documented. Throughout the African continent, insects can be found in abundance and when staple foods are scarce, they become important food sources. When hunting or fishing becomes problematic during the rainy season, insects play an important role in food security. Caterpillars are particularly popular in Africa during the rainy season, although their availability can vary within the same country depending on climatic conditions. In Namibia, bugs are collected, ground and used as a spice by the locals. In Western Darfur State, a former Sudanese province, the oil from bugs is an important source of food. The oil is used for cooking in remote areas of the former Sudan and is particularly important when food is scarce. The bug oil is also used in medicine, for example to heal skin lesions.

Entomophagy is also present in Asian regions. In South Asia (Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India), for example, over 50 insect species are consumed, in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands 39 species and in South-East Asia as many as 150 to 200 species. Red palm weevils are particularly popular throughout the continent and are a high-priced delicacy in many regions. Some insects are available all year round, including many aquatic species, while others are only available seasonally.

Entomophagy also has a tradition in Latin America. According to Ramos-Elorduy (1997), the indigenous people of Mexico have a profound knowledge of the plant and animal species that traditionally form their diet. This knowledge also includes insects and their life cycles. According to Milton (1984), the Maku Indians, for example, who live in the tropical forest of the northwestern Amazon in Brazil, collect insects during the rainy season from July to September, when hunting and fishing are difficult. Furthermore, wax moth larvae can be found in the markets of Quito in the Ecuadorian highlands from the end of October to the beginning of November. However, not all insects are harvested during the rainy season. For example, the larvae of the South American palm weevil and the bearded weevil are collected by the inhabitants of the north-eastern Amazon in Venezuela at the end of the rainy season from September to January. 
There can also be great differences between and within tropical zone countries among ethnic groups where insects are considered edible. In general, insect consumption is commonplace in the tropics, while it is often absent in temperate zones.

Despite the millennia-long tradition of eating insects in various religions and regions of the world, memories of eating insects faded with the invention of agriculture.

The global consumption of insects

The number of insect species whose consumption is documented varies from country to country. According to the 2018 Meat Atlas, FAO staff estimate that insects now play a role in the diet of almost 2 billion people worldwide. The consumption of insects is particularly widespread in parts of Africa, Asia, North, Central and South America and among Aboriginal Australians. A veritable insect cuisine has established itself in these regions.

In tropical regions in particular, it is easy to collect wild insects due to their prevalence. Many insect species reproduce quickly and are easy to keep and breed. These factors favor the consumption of insects in certain regions. Insects play a particularly important role in developing countries with frequent famines.

In Western cultures, on the other hand, the consumption of insects is a marginal phenomenon and is often associated with feelings of disgust. However, certain insects are now approved for use in food in Europe and various foods are available for an entomophagic diet.

The global consumption of insects


The use of insects as food is widespread in tropical countries, but is rarely discussed in Western countries. This could mean that insects could contribute to global food security as a sustainable and viable food resource.
Sandro Tornow

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