France: Agronutris receives ‘green light’ to sell yellow mealworms for food applications in Europe

The French edible insect producer becomes the first company to receive EU authorisation to commercialise dried Tenebrio molitor larvae based on its novel food application
Agronutris staff at the facility growing yellow mealworms. Photo as seen on the company Facebook page

EU Member States’ delegates in the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed have backed a draft Commission Implementing Regulation, aiming at authorising the placing on the EU market of dried Tenebrio molitor larvae – also known as yellow mealworm – based on a novel food application submitted by the French insect producer Agronutris.

Created in 2011, Agronutris is a French biotech company that specialises in rearing and transforming insects into proteins for animal nutrition. Made up of experts in entomology and specialists from the agroindustry, the company offers a range of products for the aquaculture and pet food markets.

The approval of its Novel Food application paves the way for the company to commercialise edible insects as an ingredient in food products.

This positive vote follows the recent publication by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) of a scientific opinion which concluded that yellow mealworms are safe for human consumption in food products.

The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), the European umbrella organisation representing stakeholders active in the production of insects for food and feed, has welcomed the recent decision allowing Agronutris the commercialisation of dried yellow mealworm and derived products in the EU market.

Agronutris co-founder and IPIFF member, Cedric Auriol, said: “The green light given by EU Member States represents a major milestone for our company, but also for the insect producing sector as a whole.”

European commercialisation

Agronutris will have the possibility to commercialise the products containing dried Tenebrio molitor larvae across the EU for a five-year period, pursuant to the data protection mechanism foreseen in the EU novel food legislation.

However, this authorisation will also benefit companies that intend to incorporate the ingredients produced or commercialised by Agronutris into insect-based products.

Other producers of dried yellow mealworm also have the possibility to use the ‘protected’ scientific data included in the novel food application developed by Agronutris, if agreed by the latter company.

While this step rewards the efforts of Agronutris, which becomes the first European insect producer officially authorised to sell insects as human food within the EU, this first authorisation will also pave the way for other European producers of edible insects.

French company Ÿnsect is one such company, and it’s also awaiting the approval of its Novel Food application.

Edible insect — legal framework

The European Commission is set to officially adopt the draft legal text prior to its publication in the EU Official Journal and its final entry into force.

IPIFF president, Antoine Hubert hailed this vote as “an important milestone towards the wider EU commercialisation of edible insects”.

Christophe Derrien, IPIFF secretary-general, concurred. “We are hoping that these final procedural steps will lead to the effective authorisation of these products before the summer,” he added.

Pending the future confirmation by EFSA on the safety of other insect food products forming the basis of a novel food application, European insect producers who have lawfully commercialised their products at national level before 2018 may benefit from a so-called ‘transitional measure’.

This provision, provided under the EU novel food legislation, aims at allowing such producers to continue marketing their products at national level until EU novel food authorisations, which apply all across the European Union territory, are being granted. This possibility has only been used by a handful of EU countries.

“Following the EU Member States positive vote on dried Tenebrio molitor products and a recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union, we are urging EU Member States to make full use of the possibilities to implement this novel food transitional measure on their national territory, in full compliance with applicable novel food provisions and EU general food safety and traceability standards,” Derrien concluded.