Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association

Evaluation of hazardous chemicals in edible insects and insect-based food intended for human consumption.

PMID 28007452


Due to the rapid increase in world population, the waste of food and resources, and non-sustainable food production practices, the use of alternative food sources is currently strongly promoted. In this perspective, insects may represent a valuable alternative to main animal food sources due to their nutritional value and sustainable production. However, edible insects may be perceived as an unappealing food source and are indeed rarely consumed in developed countries. The food safety of edible insects can thus contribute to the process of acceptance of insects as an alternative food source, changing the perception of developed countries regarding entomophagy. In the present study, the levels of organic contaminants (i.e. flame retardants, PCBs, DDT, dioxin compounds, pesticides) and metals (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sn, Zn) were investigated in composite samples of several species of edible insects (greater wax moth, migratory locust, mealworm beetle, buffalo worm) and four insect-based food items currently commercialized in Belgium. The organic chemical mass fractions were relatively low (PCBs: 27-2065 pg/g ww; OCPs: 46-368 pg/g ww; BFRs: up to 36 pg/g ww; PFRs 783-23800 pg/g ww; dioxin compounds: up to 0.25 pg WHO-TEQ/g ww) and were generally lower than those measured in common animal products. The untargeted screening analysis revealed the presence of vinyltoluene, tributylphosphate (present in 75% of the samples), and pirimiphos-methyl (identified in 50% of the samples). The levels of Cu and Zn in insects were similar to those measured in meat and fish in other studies, whereas As, Co, Cr, Pb, Sn levels were relatively low in all samples (<0.03 mg/kg ww). Our results support the possibility to consume these insect species with no additional hazards in comparison to the more commonly consumed animal products.