August 14, 2019 11:59 am

Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects – and this would be enough to stop the majority of you from reading more about it. For the bravest: more than 1,900 edible insect species are actually consumed around the world, especially beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets.

Entomophagy is an ancient tradition in many countries, such as Mexico, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Amazon. The term “entomophagy” (/ɛntəˈmɒfədʒi/) comes from Greek: ἔντομον – éntomon, “insect”, and φᾰγεῖν – phagein, “to eat”.

Insects are the novel food par excellence. In the European Union their consumption, as for the other products recently added to a population’s diet, is defined by the Regulation (EU) 2015/2283, which became applicable the 1st of January 2018. However, many European countries have not even started to produce insects for human consumption. The reasons for this lack of action has to be found in the reaction of disgust and rejection against the idea of eating insects.

The truth is that entomophagy offers great benefits for human health and environment: insects provide high-quality protein and nutrients comparable with meat and fish, are rich in fibre and micronutrients and pose a very low risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases. Insects can convert 2 kg of feed into 1 kg of insect mass, whereas cattle require 8 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of body weight gain. Insects can be cultivated, processed and cooked relatively easily, with great advantages for farmers and entrepreneurs.

They are used for animal feed too – this means that probably you already ate insects during your life, even if indirectly.

If all these benefits are not enough to persuade us to convert ourselves to entomophagy, let’s add some “yummy” details. In those countries in which entomophagy is a common habit insects are not considered just a poor food: they are eaten in a lot of different ways, cooked or raw, served fried or breaded and often accompanied by spicy sauces (especially in Latin America). People describe them as testing like fried chicken or a salty snack with a little extra crunch.

As already pointed out, in the European countries, insects are still a “food taboo” which trigger a reaction of disgust and refuse. We commonly eat shrimps and lobsters, which are not so different from a lot of insects from an esthetical and lifestyle point of view – they eat other animals’ remains and live in the sea, as all fish do which are being happily consumed.

We had the same reaction when Japanese sushi reached European restaurants. Then, we gradually accepted it as a curious exotic culinary habit and now we adore it. Maybe it will just take some more time for Europeans to appreciate this practise of entomophagy.



Costa-Neto E. M., “Edible insects in Latin America: old challenges, new opportunities” in Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, 2016, 2(1):1-2


FAO/WUR, Expert consultation meeting: assessing the potential of insects as food and feed in assuring food security, P. Vantomme, E. Mertens, A. van Huis & H. Klunder, eds. Summary report, Rome, 23-25 January 2012, http://www.fao.org/3/an233e/an233e00.pdf

FAO/WUR, Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security, FAO Forestry Paper, Rome, 2013, http://www.fao.org/3/i3253e/i3253e.pdf

Meyer-Rochow V. B., Food Taboos, Elsevier, 2018


Oxford Dictionaries https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/entomophagy

Regulation (EU) 2015 of the European Parliament and of the Council on novel food


SLU, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health, Sweden, Fernandez-Cassi X, Supeanu A, Jansson A, Boqvist S. and Vagsholm I, Novel foods: a risk profile for the house cricket (Acheta domesticus), EFSA Journal 2018;16(S1):e16082, 15 pp. https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2018.e16082

Viesca González F. C., Romero Contreras A. T., “La Entomofagia en México. Algunos aspectos culturales” in El Periplo Sustentable – Turismo y Desarrollo, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, 2009, n. 16, pp. 57-83


Written by Serena Mottola, Study Visitor in Terminology at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and Ph.D. candidate in European Languages and Specialised Terminology at the University “Parthenope” of Naples. She speaks Italian, English, Spanish, Russian and Italian Sign Language.

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