Special Edition: Aqua feed advances

EU: Insect protein use in aqua feed likely within 12 months, says industry insider

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Black soldier fly larvae © Protix
Black soldier fly larvae © Protix

Related tags European commission European union

DG Santé, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, is currently reviewing legislation to allow insect derived meal to be included in the diets of farmed fish, according to the IPIFF.

“This is finally happening. We can sense that the required regulatory change needed to enable the use of insect protein in aquaculture production is imminent.

"I have been cautious before in relation to timelines but from the amount of emails and internal discussions at Commission level, I can see there is real momentum behind efforts to lift the slaughterhouse amendment blocking the use of non-ruminant insect protein in aquaculture.

"I would now expect the legislation to be in place within 12 months,” ​said Tarique Arsiwalla, vice president of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), a consortium of insect-producing companies from the Netherlands, France, Germany among others.

Fish trials

The EU funded PROteINSECT project last week released the results of fish feeding trials it has carried out. The studies involved the feeding of 3,600 Atlantic salmon parr over an eight week period.

Those researchers found defatted insect meal has potential to replace more than 50% of fish meal in the diets of those fish. 

According to the IPIFF, insects represent up to 70% of a natural trout diet.

That industry platform said, on average, insects can convert 2kg of feed into 1kg of insect mass, whereas cattle require 8kg of feed to produce 1kg of body weight gain.

Protein levels in insect meals vary between 55% and 75% and levels are comparable to animal proteins such as meat and bone meal and fish meal sources, according to IPIFF data.

The consortium said feed incorporation rates for insect meal range from between 5 and 40% in aqua and broiler feed.

Insect protein, together with other non-ruminant proteins such as poultry derived sources, seemed to have been given the green light for use in aquaculture in the EU in June 2013.

However, the condition for using non-ruminant proteins for feeding non-ruminant farmed animals, as per Annex IV to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001, is the killing of the animals in an official registered slaughterhouse. 

For insects it is technically difficult to comply with this condition, thus preventing their use in fish farming.

Protein analysis

Arsiwalla told FeedNavigator today the IPIFF has been engaging with DG Santé on the amendment to the regulation. “The Commission asked industry to submit insect protein samples to it for DNA analysis by its labs to determine if they were completely free of other processed animal proteins and the results showed there was no such risk.

That development coupled with the opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last October finding no major safety indications for insect reared on 100% vegetable substrates has accelerated the legislative action.”

Staggered process

He said DG Santé is currently working on a draft of the revision. “We wanted DG Santé to focus on aquaculture usage as a first step. EU insect production capacity, as it stands, can meet the expected aqua feed demand for insect meal. We can, thereafter, look to get authorization for its use in poultry diets.”

The trade representative acknowledged, however, that it is not just down to DG Santé to decide on the revision. A majority vote is needed from member states.

“IPIFF will be at a meeting on 12 May of the Commission’s working group on TSE regulation to address questions from all the member state representatives in relation to insect production from a quality and hygiene perspective,” ​said Arsiwalla.

Wolfgang Trunk, who is responsible for animal nutrition at DG Santé, was presenting on the regulatory roadmap for insect feed at the PROteINSECT conference last week in Brussels where he confirmed the EC is committed to internal discussions around the barriers to adoption of insect meal as feed in the EU.

In terms of actual timelines, he only said a formal decision on the introduction to feed of protein from insects reared on feed grade substrates could not be reached, even in a best case scenario, before 2017.

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