Insects as Food

Frequently asked questions

About eating insects

Are insects approved as food product?
At the moment, the legal situation in the EU is in a transitional phase and within the scope of this the products are approved as food. From October 2020 onwards, integration into the Novel Food dossier is expected, thus aiming at a uniform regulation in the EU.
Which parts of the insect are edible?
In general, the entire insects are edible. An exception is the locust (Locusta migratoria), as it is recommended to remove the large hind legs (due to the barbs). However, they can be eaten if ground finely.
Where can I buy insect food?

You can order insect snacks and protein insect bars in our online shop. Retailers and food service providers are best to contact us directly if they are interested in larger quantities or other products (such as insect burgers or whole insects, dried or frozen).

Is it possible to collect insects in the garden and prepare them afterwards?
We advise against the regular consumption of insects that are not from a breeding farm, which is controlled and certified as a food producer. Wild insects can accumulate heavy metals, which can lead to health issues if you eat them. Please do not collect or consume insects that are protected or endangered.
Are insects considered as vegetarian or even vegan?
Insects are living creatures, just like humans and plants. More specific they are animals. We know from people, who complement their vegetarian diet with insects. However, this is a personal choice.

Health

Are there any health risks when eating insects?
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA, 2015), edible insects do not carry any other biological or chemical risks compared to other animal protein sources. For the insect species, which are approved today, there are no known zoonosis. Zoonosis are diseases or infections, which can be transferred between animals and humans.

Insects have a well-developed immune system. Therefore, the farms we work with don’t need to use any antibiotics or medicine to keep the insects healthy.

Are there known insect allergies?
Insects have a similar biological structure like crustaceans. Therefore, people with allergies to crustaceans or molluscs can have an allergic reaction to insects as well. The same is true for people with a dust mite allergy.
Are insects gluten-free?
Insects can contain traces of gluten, which depends on the feed they eat.

Sustainability

Why should I eat insects, plants are more sustainable anyway?
In the context of a balanced diet, we see insects as a good supplement to a plant-based diet. Insects are a valuable addition due to the nutritional values. They offer a wide and high quality spectrum of proteins and minerals and are a natural source of vitamin B12.
How does Essento contribute to a more sustainable society?
With edible insects we offer a sustainable alternative to meat. Insects need very little water, emit hardly any greenhouse gases, require much less feed and space than conventional meat production and can be fed with by-products from food production. Feed for insects is therefore not in competition with our food. In addition, the edible part of insects is 80-100%, while in cattle it is only around 40% (cf. FAO 2013).

Our insects are farmed in the EU or Switzerland. We have high quality and sustainability standards for our products. We only use insects from animal-friendly farms and pay attention to the origin of our selected ingredients. Whenever possible we try to include local products and suppliers. Our manufacture is based in Zurich.

Essento products

Which products does Essento offer?
Our assortment includes whole insects as well as refined, processed products. We want to let you decide what attracts you most to try and eat insects.

You get whole insects roasted and refined as snacks or processed as high protein insect bars. In addition, we have created Essento Insect Burgers, which are available for food service providers and restaurants.

How do you guarantee the safety and quality of your products?

Our products are manufactured under the required food hygiene conditions and are subject to the same strict quality regulations and controls as other foods. Additionally, we are in regular contact with the authorities and carry out regular microbiological laboratory tests.

When it comes to farming insects, there are strict guidelines so that they can be sold as food. The respectful treatment of all animals, including insects, is very important to us. We have therefore developed joint solutions with the animal welfare authorities in Switzerland.

How has the price of insects developed?

The quantities of insects consumed throughout Europe are still very small compared to conventional meat consumption. What needs to happen to increase the consumption of insects?
We have asked you and we are listening: For many people it is important that the prices of insects are lower in order to encourage them to eat insects on a more regular basis. In the last years we have been able to pass on several price reductions to you and thus continuously lower our prices. Insects will be cheaper than meat in the future, as it requires much less input (work, water, space, feed, etc).

Willingness to eat insects

Why do some people feel disgusted at the thought of eating insects?
Society, culture and education are responsible for many people perceiving insects as something disgusting. This phenomenon can be seen particularly in Western cultures. In most other countries, insects are considered a common food and don’t have any negative connotations. The same was true in Europe until the industrialization of agriculture. We too were brought up in this way and some of us also had to overcome this mental barrier when eating insects for the first time. We can tell you it’s totally worth it! Once you get over it, the taste will convince you!
How has the willingness to eat insects developed in recent years?
The willingness to eat insects is constantly increasing. We notice this every time during events, workshops and tastings. The taste, the ecological and health benefits and the culinary experience are most convincing for people to try insects. The first step is easier with our processed products (e.g. Insect Burger or Protein Bar) than with whole insects.

Future

How do you estimate the likelihood of additional insect species being legalized as food?
There are other insect species that would be interesting from a nutrition and taste perspective. We see bee drone larvae as the next insect species, which could be legalized. Instead of treating them as a waste product of bee keeping, they could be valuable as a novel food.
How could the future of entomophagy (insect eating) look like? What is the vision of Essento?
We want to establish insects as food in the western world and thus enrich our food system, make our diet more balanced and sustainable and thus create added value for people & environment.

Insect breeding & animal welfare

Where do you source your insects from?
Our insects are sourced from countries in the European Union as well as from Switzerland. We cooperate closely with a few breeders, who are specialized in breeding insects for food and we maintain a regular contact with our partners.
What do the insects get to eat?
Farmed insects are fed with by-products from other food productions. Therefore, insect feed is not in competition with human food production. Examples of the by-products used as insect feed are the vast amounts of wheat bran, which result from grain production, or old vegetables and fruit, which are no longer considered for human consumption.
Do insects feel pain? How are they killed?
The respectful treatment of all animals, which includes insects, is very crucial for us. There are first indications that insects don’t have any sensation of pain as we know it. Their characteristic of lapsing into torpor at low temperatures is used to dispatch them in a humane way. This means insects are being frozen and as soon as the temperature decreases enough, the organism dies. We are in exchange with the animal protection organization in order to ensure the species-appropriate breeding and dispatching of the insects.
How does Essento guarantee that the insects come from a species-appropriate breeding farm?
Clear guidelines were developed for breeding insects as food. The welfare of insects is an important topic to us. For this reason we are in conversation with the Swiss animal protection organization to develop farming guidelines.
Are there diseases that can be transmitted to humans?
For the insect species, which are approved as food today, there are no known zoonosis. The farms we work don’t need to use any antibiotics or medicine to keep the insects healthy.

Critisism

At a global level, a drastic insect extinction is observed. Why should we still eat insects?
This is one of the reasons, why we discourage eating wild insects.
We source insects only from breeding farms that are certified and have a closed system, which is why the insects are not connected to a wild ecosystem. Further, we are convinced that the consumption of bred insects increases the awareness of the important role these small creatures play in our ecosystem.
Why are insects so expensive? Aren’t they supposed to be way cheaper than conventional meat?
The quantities of insects consumed throughout Europe are still very small compared to conventional meat consumption. What needs to happen to increase the consumption of insects?
We have asked you and we are listening: For many people it is important that the prices of insects are lower in order to encourage them to eat insects on a more regular basis. In the last years we have been able to pass on several price reductions to you and thus continuously lower our prices. Insects will be cheaper than meat in the future, as it requires much less input (work, water, space, feed, etc).