Understand new foods in three questions

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If you’ve ever eaten insects as a snack or drank noni juice to boost your immune defenses, you’re unknowingly a new food fanatic. Under this term are hidden all the foods little or not consumed in the European community before May 15, 1997. With globalization, the eating habits of the inhabitants of distant countries arrive in our country in the luggage of travelers. Science, on the other hand, allows active principles to be extracted from certain plants or animals unknown in our regions. These new foods can be of animal origin (insects, krill extract), vegetable (dehydrated baobab fruit pulp, guar gum), derived from microorganisms (fungi, algae) or have a modified molecular structure (nanotechnology, chemistry). Meat cultured in vitro (read the interview with Didier Toubia, founder of Aleph Farms page 116, editor’s note), which is not yet authorized in Europe, can be considered a novel food. GMOs, enzymes, additives and flavorings are subject to different regulations. Since 2018, it is EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, which authorizes or not the marketing in each Member State of the European Union of these hitherto unknown foods on our plates. “This assessment is used to verify its safety and nutritional value”, explains Aymeric Dopter, deputy head of the Nutritional Risk Assessment Unit of ANSES (National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Work). The list is constantly evolving. Latest authorized novel food: mushroom powder containing vitamin B2. The most popular new food is, without a doubt, insects. Produced mainly for animal feed, they are starting to find a place on our coffee tables as a snack. The brands Jimini’s, Insecteo or Micronutris offer whole crickets and lobsters, or powder in protein bars, pasta, biscuits, bread, etc. France is at the forefront of this new booming market with its foodtech nuggets: Ÿnsect, a leader in the sector that has raised 360 million euros since its creation ten years ago, InnovaFeed (200 million since 2016 ) and Agronutris (100 million in September 2021). ). Ÿnsect’s main market is animal feed, but the unicorn has recently created a dedicated human food business unit to exploit the Tenebrio molitor, or mealworm, a species of protein-rich beetle. “There is a demand, especially in sports nutrition, looking for effective and sustainable alternative proteins. This market, estimated at 500 million euros, should represent 10% of our turnover in a few years”, explains Guillaume Daoulas, director of business development. The start-up based in Hauts-de-France recently acquired the Dutch company Protifarm, one of the most advanced players in the use of beetles for human food, and inaugurated in May near Amiens the largest vertical farm in the world with eventual production. capacity of 200,000 tons of ingredients per year. “Insects are emerging as an increasingly popular food category for humans and animals,” says the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), in its recent report “Assessment of edible insects in a food security perspective”. But he warns that it will take a massive increase in production for mealworms and beetles to become an equivalent source of protein to meat or vegetables. Why eat new foods? What can these new foods bring us in terms of nutrition and health? Mainly, a wealth of protein and fatty acids including omega-3. “Omega-3 intake, such as EPA and DHA, which are involved in many brain functions, is rarely covered. They are mainly found in fatty fish but we don’t eat enough of them,” explains Aymeric Dopter. Schizochytrium, a microalgae, for example, is highly dosed in EPA and DHA and is suitable for vegans.The Toulouse start-up Kyanos Biotechnologies, which specializes in the production of the nutrient-rich microalgae Aphanizomenon flos aquae (AFA) and proteins, has just inaugurated its first industrial production pilot. “We are in the process of gathering all the ingredients to successfully scale up our innovative technology and mass production of microalgae,” says Vinh Ly, CEO of Kyanos Biotechnologies. Insects have been a source of protein for centuries in various parts of the world, two South American researchers showed in 2003 that Leucopela albescens (a beetle) was composed of 34.41% protein, much more than chicken (19.62%) or the cow (17.01%). “Mealworm protein is very high in amino acids and very digestible. We have conducted several trials on our defatted product, including one on obese rats with the University of Giessen in Germany. By replacing casein (milk protein) by insect proteins, cholesterol levels in the blood and liver of these overweight rodents can be reduced by 60%. We recently conducted clinical trials in humans with Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The conclusion is quite surprising: there is no difference in terms of digestibility and muscle synthesis between milk protein, which is the reference in human nutrition, and insect protein,” describes Guillaume Daoulas. For Esther Katz, an anthropologist specializing in food, by not considering insects as edible, Europeans are an exception because in Asia, Africa, America and Oceania many peoples are entomophagous. “In Latin America, originally it was the Amerindians those who ate it, then the half-breeds. Today, an important part of the population has approached it”, explains the researcher. For her, insects cannot replace other foods, unless you take large doses of them. But they can make up for certain deficiencies: “In Mexico, for a long time, farmers ate very little meat. For them it was an interesting protein supplement”. In addition to this contribution, the industrial production of insects is greener than agriculture or intensive breeding. For 1 kg of insect protein you need 100 times less agricultural land than for 1 kg of animal protein and much less water (23 liters per gram versus 112 liters for beef). Insects do not emit methane, and their global warming potential per kilo produced is 100 times lower than that of pigs. Tomorrow, eating crickets could help save the planet. “If we want to feed the planet in 2050, we have to produce 70% more food and that with only 5% of the land available. It’s time to develop alternatives that allow us to produce more and better,” says Antoine Hubert, CEO of Ÿnsect. Does new food present any risks? According to the FAO, the biological risks of eating insects are very low if their breeding and production respect hygiene standards. Bacterial risk exists, but cooking removes pathogens. The main danger is allergenic: people allergic to shellfish have also been found to be allergic to certain varieties of insects . That is why Efsa carries out extensive tests before any marketing authorization. A procedure that also serves to combat the reluctance of the public to unfamiliar foods. The very strict European regulations are a guarantee for the doubtful consumer. In fact, still that certain foods have been eaten for a long time in other parts of the world – two billion inhabitants of 140 countries eat more than 2000 varieties of insects – this does not mean that they are harmless ius, especially if they have been transformed. Thus, food supplements containing hydroalcoholic extracts of yam, a root vegetable rich in starch, have been withdrawn from sale because they are hepatotoxic. “In Africa, we eat this tuber well cooked. The cold extraction process used for a known food made it dangerous”, explains Aymeric Dopter. Esther Katz believes that it is necessary to work on education to promote the consumption of insects, considered in Europe as a pest. A requirement that Ÿnsect has taken into account: “We are working on three parameters. The disgust: we offer flour and not whole insects; aversion, linked to the unknown: we associate common ingredients (walnuts, thyme); the danger: we explain the manufacturing processes. We also collaborate with the FFPIDI (Inter-Profession of Insect Producers) to communicate with politicians and ensure that everyone informs the public rigorously”, explains Guillaume Daoulas. La Fontaine was far from suspecting that his ant and his cicada would one day end up in our stomachs. ………………………………………… ………………………………………… ……. Article by T La Revue n°8 – “From the field to the plate – Best products to eat well?” Currently on newsstands An issue dedicated to agriculture and food, available on newsstands and at kiosk.latribune.fr/t-la-revue
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