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Thailand leading way with edible insects

AAP logoAAP 28/08/2016

Smothered in sauces, shaped like hamburger patties or mixed into spirals of dough, edible insects are served up in numerous ways in Thailand.

In the Thai capital, home to millions of workers from poorer regions, you'll find plenty of stalls offering a wide variety of insects to taste.

Crickets, grasshoppers, silkworms and water cockroaches are some of the more than 1600 species of edible insects available.

"The country is the global leader with respect to the edible insects industry in several ways," Patrick Durst, a representative of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told EFE.

Durst, who co-authored the 2013 report Six-legged livestock: Edible insect farming, collection and marketing in Thailand, points out that the Asian country has managed to evolve "from a system of subsistence for local consumption to creating value-added commercial channels".

More than 250 emerging companies from around the world have begun a movement to bring these edible insect-based products to the Western market.

"The European Union, for example, is working on a regulation governing the market of edible insects within its borders," Italian businessman Massimo Reverberi, who early this year founded Bugsolutely, a company dedicated to the production of spiral pasta with cricket flour, told EFE.

"The barrier is not completely logical. In Italy or France, for example, one eats a type of cheese with worms inside. Not to mention products such as oysters ... which look like monsters. But people feel repulsed by insects," said Reverberi.

The FAO classifies edible insects as a superfood due to their nutritional properties, rich proteins, vitamins and other micronutrients, as well as posing an environmental impact much lower than bovine or porcine cattle farms ensuring sustainable development of the food industry.

A major strong point of Thailand is the rise in local consumption. Now in some supermarket chains, along with potato chips nuts or other snacks, one can find bags of edible insects.

According to FAO data, 112 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, America and Oceania practice "entomophagy" or consumption of insects.

"There are endless possibilities with edible insects, there are chefs who have begun to innovate their dishes and cookbooks. Meals have a pleasant taste, the only problem is having the image of the insect in the mind (of the people)," says Reverberi.

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