World, Europe

Swiss shoppers bugging out over insect food

Swiss stores begin stocking protein-rich foods based on insects; Anadolu Agency visits Geneva supermarket

Fatih Erel   | 21.08.2017
Swiss shoppers bugging out over insect food

Geneve

By Fatih Erel

GENEVA

Most people's weekly trip to the supermarket is a routine affair, but for customers of a Swiss supermarket chain a new range of unusual treats are on offer -- insect-based food.

Swiss retailer Coop has started selling the country's first insect foodstuffs, including burgers and balls of mashed-up bugs.

These unconventional products are based on protein-rich mealworm and will go on sale in seven Coop branches, including in Geneva, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lugano and Zurich.

Swiss food safety legislation was changed in May to permit the sale of food items containing three types of bugs: mealworms, crickets and grasshoppers, previously used to feed animals.

With this move, Switzerland became the first European country to allow the sale of insect-based food products for human consumption.

Eating insects is increasingly being considered as a sustainable alternative to consuming meat as the world’s population continues to increase.

An estimated two billion people worldwide consume insects; in theory, consuming protein-rich bugs could be more environmentally friendly, given the space and resources needed to farm cattle for slaughter. 

Entomophagy

Science aside, was the public ready for insect burgers? Anadolu Agency traveled to the Geneva branch of Coop on Monday to see if the country’s new insect meals were flying off the shelves.

Local customers did not seem to be showing a great interest in the insect-based products, with the Geneva store selling only a couple of packets on its first day.

A pack of two insect burgers costs 8.95 Swiss francs ($9.30) and the packaging makes it clear that it is made from bugs.

Made by a Swiss company called Essento, these insects "have a high culinary potential, their production saves resources and their nutritional profile is high-quality," according to co-founder Christian Bartsch.

According to Coop, the insect burgers also contain rice and vegetables such as turnip, celery and leek, as well as various spices like oregano and chilli, in addition to the mealworm.

The insect balls are made of mealworm and chickpeas, onions, garlic, coriander and parsley.

Despite their current niche appeal in Europe, insect foods could become more common. A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report from 2013 already identified entomophagy -- the consumption of insects -- as something which “contributes positively to the environment and to health and livelihoods”.

“Insects as food and feed emerge as an especially relevant issue in the twenty-first century due to the rising cost of animal protein, food and feed insecurity, environmental pressures, population growth and increasing demand for protein among the middle classes.

"Thus, alternative solutions to conventional livestock and feed sources urgently need to be found,” researchers added.

So, bug burgers could be a thing of the future.

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