Insects for dinner? Scientists propose idea to improve food security

March 03, 2016

In an effort to improve food availability and nutrition, scientists in Kenya are suggesting adding insects, such as crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and termites, to their citizens’ daily diet.

Dr. Sunday Ekesi, a principal scientist at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), said in a recent article that there are more than 2,000 insect species already being consumed by more than two billion people globally, and that many are highly nutritious.

"We have discovered that locally available insects can play a significant role in food security, storage, hygiene and safety issues," Dr. Ekesi said. He also added that research has revealed that only about 5,000 insects of a possible population of one million are harmful.

Consumption of insects will be the center of a multi-million dollar study funded by Canadian, Dutch, German, Danish and Australian governments as well as the World Bank. The money invested in the study will also be used for the establishment of an African center of excellence in sustainable use of insects as food and feed.

The study will also explore the control of allergies that might discourage consumption of insects, and could led to them being processed, packaged and sold in supermarkets.

Dr. Ekesi explained in the article that cultural perceptions are still a hindrance, and that he and his colleagues hope to change this by showing local communities that insects can be processed as well. Then, consumers can enjoy the nutritional benefits of insects without having to eat them whole.

In addition, the harvesting of crickets could create jobs, professor Stephen Agong', Jaramogi University vice-chancellor, explained. This could have a significant impact on the number of people who currently cannot fend for themselves due to lack of work resulting in poverty.

The researchers said that about 10 grams of insect can be a wholesome meal and with improved technology to process the insects, mass production could occur. In turn, this which would be able to support the surging demand for nutritious food throughout the region.

Throughout Africa other value added chains are currently being explored in feeds for fish and poultry. This includes the use of black soldier flies in the production of fish meal.

"We want to collect different insects from all over Africa which we will develop to make them easily available for farmers," professor Monica Ayieko, another researcher involved in the study, said.

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Category: Food Safety