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¿Worms for your lunchbox?

We could argue (without getting too philosophical), that our food to some extent is a cultural construction. We are not going to talk about this in this article, but it is an interesting debate to determine why certain animals are part of our diet and others are not. Welcome insects to our diet.

In this sense, it is important to know that not just any substance or raw material may be used as an ingredient in our food. These must be included in long lists of ingredients approved by our health authorities.

All food (except for fresh unprocessed products) that wants to be marketed in our country must obtain a market approval called health registration. INVIMA, our health authority, reviews as part of the process the list of ingredients of the product, and in case there is an ingredient that is not approved for use in food, it will demand that the ingredient be approved through a special procedure or that the product be reformulated.

These lists of approved ingredients are dynamic, especially in terms of additives since food technology is constantly developing new substances that allow greater efficiencies in the industrial handling of the products we consume.

But also, on certain occasions there are new ingredients that the industry offers to the public as food alternatives. We recently advised a company that is interested in producing worm meal as an ingredient in food for human consumption. The larval stage of the species "tenebrio molitor" is easy to produce and the flour from it has great nutritional advantages and a high protein content. The company plans to launch snack bars (for example with chocolate like the ones we already know), with the difference that its main ingredient is flour from insects.

Before carrying out the market approval procedure for the finished product, it was necessary to carry out a prior procedure through which, before a specialized entity within INVIMA, called the Review Commission - Specialized Food and Beverage Board.

Technical and legal information is presented to this board, aiming to demonstrate that the product is suitable (and convenient) for human consumption and that such use would not generate considerable risks that outweigh its benefits.

It is also useful to present prior decisions and authorizations from other countries, and in this case, this ingredient is part of a European Community program called "Novel Foods", through which the convenience of authorizing new ingredients for our food is studied.

In the end, we were able to obtain the authorization of the ingredient from INVIMA, which is why today it is possible in Colombia to market food products whose protein source comes from flour from this species of insects.

So welcome insects to our lunch boxes!


Portrait of Karl Mutter, LL.M.
Karl Mutter, LL.M.