Cricket flour and allergies: here’s who should stay away from it and why

Stnothing cricket flour Much has been said and written, four ministerial decrees have been issued which regulate the sale of these products in Italy and they will soon be found on the shelves of all supermarkets. But today a warning has come from the experts of the Italian Society of Allergology, Asthma and Clinical Immunology (SIAAIC) which must be taken into great consideration.

Cricket flour: who should stay away from it

Products derived from insects can lead to food allergies and cases have already been registered in China, the United States and a few cases in Europe. The risk is particularly high if you are already allergic to crustaceans, molluscs or house dust mites, because cross-reactions can occur due to the very marked similarity with some proteins present in insects.

According to expert estimates, they are 2% of Italians sensitive to shellfish are at high risk of allergic reactions from insects, about 800 thousand people. To protect them, it is important that the labels clearly contain information regarding the possible content of products derived from insects, so as to be able to make informed food choices and not run any risks.

Cross allergies: symptoms

«In the scientific literature, numerous cases of patients with reactions to arthropod flours, in particular to crickets flours, have already been reported, with symptoms ranging from mild hives to severe anaphylactic shock», underlines Mario Di Gioacchino, SIAAIC President. “It is often about patients already allergic to other substances, both food and animalwho in most cases had a known allergy to shellfish and had a reaction after ingesting cricket flour.

Similar molecules are in fact present in both crustaceans and crickets, which therefore justify a cross-reaction between the two foods. Also molluscs, insects, dust mites, grasshoppers, mealworms, crabs, beetles, gnats of fruit are arthropods with which crustaceans and crickets share many proteins. Those most often identified as the cause of cross-reaction are tropomyosin and arginine kinase, more rarely hexamerin 1B and myosin light and heavy chains. Furthermore, the possible presence of cross-reactive proteins not yet identified is hypothesized, and in general a cross-reactivity between these foods is assumed to be around 90%».

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Cricket flour: the advantages for those who are not allergic

Insect flours for food purposes are excellent source of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. They are also environmentally friendly, because less greenhouse gases are emitted to produce them than most livestock. Also for this reason the market is constantly growing and it is estimated that by 2030 it will affect 390 million consumerswho will purchase these new foods for 260,000 tons.

Even the Institutions, in approving the four ministerial decrees on the arrival of insects on our tables, underlined the importance of a correct information to consumers and reported the need to report the ingredient on the label even if not present at the maximum expected level, with clear information on packaging and on every aspect of the food chain.

Cautions shared by SIAAIC because, as Di Gioacchino adds, “the risk of anaphylaxis after the ingestion of arthropod flours, in particular crickets, in those who are allergic to crustaceans or mites is not common knowledge, patients are unaware of the need to avoid insect ingestion. As these are increasingly promoted as a source of protein around the world, doctors will need to educate about this risk and regulatory agencies will have to consider the need for relevant precautionary labeling, in order to promote conscious and risk-free consumption”, concludes Di Gioacchino.

What the law says: the new 4 ministerial decrees

According to what was published byHandleon March 23, 2023 “were signed 4 decrees concerning 4 different flours deriving from insects, or foods not traditionally present in the diet. You can feed on what you think is most suitable” but “as regards the cricket meal, migratory locust, mealworm and yellow grub, we think need a specific labeling in a timely and visible way which products derive from these insects”.

This was announced by agriculture minister Francesco Lollobrigida in a joint press conference together with the Minister of Made in Italy, Adolfo Urso, and of Health, Orazio Schillaci. The decrees were signed jointly by the 3 ministries. “What the decrees provide for is alabel with product origini risks associated with consumption and the amount of insect meal present. We also predicted special shelves where they can be displayed in shops”, so that “those who want to choose crickets, larvae and locusts can go there and those who don’t want to, as I imagine most Italians, can keep away”, explained Lollobrigida.

With this provision, he added, “in full agreement with the Regions, we guarantee Italian citizens the awareness of what they eat and make Italy a nation at the forefront in this sense”.