Insect innovation - building a safe culture from the start

Like any developments in our sector, we want to ensure insect-based feed is managed safely and responsibly. The world is looking for more sustainable sources of protein, for both humans and our animals. Given the potential for fewer emissions, circularity, and a good nutritional profile, there is great potential for insect-based animal feed to be part of the mix.

Picture Roland van der Post

An emerging industry

GMP+ International supports the use of insects and insect products in animal feed, provided that safety is ensured - which is entirely achievable. For a relatively new sector, insect-feed is developing rapidly, and a large amount of new research is being conducted to enhance our collective understanding.

A variety of insects and insect products are already approved for the GMP+ chain, mostly from the black soldier fly. While meal derived from whole insects is an option, most feed from insects comes from larvae - including oil, processed protein, and dried or frozen whole larvae.

Larvae themselves feed on a substrate to gain their nutrients, which is often simply waste food material. Indeed in the European Union insects are considered ‘farmed animals’ and there are restrictions on the permitted substrates. GMP+ International applies the same criteria and only allows the use of material from vegetal origin.

Given how much food waste is created around the world, and compared to the environmental impact of feed for conventional livestock, there is a significant environmental and circularity case for insect-based feed. Our role is to promote safety as this industry innovates and grows.

Start as we mean to go on - safely

GMP+ International has already published guidance on insects in feed (S9.41), and the requirements for the certified chain remain; so if you are purchasing insect-based feed, be sure that you do your due diligence and check that your suppliers are GMP+ certified.

We want to work with parties across the chain to further advance our understanding of what level of feed safety assurance is needed at which steps of the chain. As we monitor this new development in the sector, GMP+ International will be furthering our connections with key partners including the Network for Insect Knowledge, Wageningen University and Research, and ensuring the expertise on our committees remains fresh and up to date.

For certified companies making insect-feed, you have an opportunity that established industries in our community did not have; to build a feed safety culture from the ground up. Other animal feed chains learned the importance of feed safety the hard way, and had to implement safety systems after something went wrong. The last thing we want is a contamination incident that gives insect-based feed a poor reputation - that could not only hold the sector back, but also hold back our community’s efforts to be more sustainable.

In practice, suppliers must ensure that the feed substrate is safe and does not pass on any contaminations, either to the insect itself or any other animal or person further down the feed chain. This assurance can be gained on the basis of a HACCP analysis, which will help identify the potential risks, and manage them. For new substrates, like other new animal feeds, GMP+ International will conduct risk assessments.

There have already been discussions in the sector about whether specific steps of this developing industry should be explicitly included under the GMP+ Feed Certification scheme in future.