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Cockroaches – The New Super Food?

Posted in Food Policy,Food Safety on July 26, 2018

Cockroaches are well-known to be absolutely disgusting. You see them in only the nastiest of places like dumpsters and porta-johns, but scientists are currently attempting to change our perception of these widely disliked insects. Would you ever think of eating something made from a kitchen that has roaches in it, let alone food that is made of roaches? We are not talking about a foreign delicacy here. We are focusing on a daily staple, made from the very bugs that make your skin crawl. Get the heebie-jeebies when you see a roach scamper across your floor?

Well, you might soon find them in your food!

Buggy Bread

Two Brazilian engineering students from the Federal University of Rio Grande, Andressa Lucas and Lauren Mengegon, have officially developed a flour that is made out of cockroaches. The flour contains forty percent more protein than normal wheat flour, making it a healthier option than most previous flour options. After a lot of studying and research, Lucas and Menegon discovered that by incorporating cockroaches into flour, they were creating an ingredient made up of immense amounts of amino acids, some lipids, and fatty acids, all of which are essential to maintaining a balanced, healthy human diet. By turning cockroaches into flour, Lucas and Menegon have developed a product that could help balance out many diets.

While some might be repelled by the idea of finding the dumpster-diving insects in their new loaf of bread, rest assured that the cockroaches in question are not the nasty little creatures you find in dark alleys. The species used in flour-making is the Nauphoeta cinerea, an entirely different species than the roaches found in city sewers, drains, and dumpsters. Researchers actually purchase the insects from specialized breeders, where they are hygienically produced and raised on a diet of fruits and vegetables. These roaches meet all hygiene requirements required by ANVISA, which is the Brazilian health surveillance agency.

According to the two scientists, “We chose the cockroach because it was the insect that had the highest protein content—almost 70 percent. It contains eight of the nine essential amino acids, it has high-quality fatty acids (such as omega-3 and omega-9) and we can use almost 100 percent of it, with very little residue. Insects are exceptionally effective in converting what they eat in nutritional structures that can be consumed by humans. Since they are rich sources of protein, they can enrich the human diet, especially for people suffering from malnutrition, and their consumption can help reduce the negative environmental impacts of livestock, since it requires less space and generate less pollution, so these factors were enough to convince us to start the research.”

When interviewed, the scientists revealed that “We began to develop our research in 2014 as a final paper project. We graduated [with degrees] in food engineering from the Federal University of Rio Grande and decided to continue the project since we obtained excellent results. We also had some sponsorship from a company that develops food technologies using insects as raw material, so we decided to keep up with our researches.”

Bugs Are Not THAT Weird

While the idea of eating the idea of eating insects might still gross out the majority of people, it’s actually becoming a more widely accepted idea. With the expectation of food shortages on the horizon, many experts hold to the idea of insects swiftly becoming a major source of nutrients for people. Not only are insects taking their place in recipes and restaurants, but adding them as a wheat replacement could provide some major benefits.

The scientists were asked about the likely hesitance consumers might have toward an insect-infested flour, to which they replied, “There are people who still resist the idea when we talk about the use of insects in food. This is a cultural issue, and since we do not have this habit [of eating insects] in Brazil, we believe it will take a long time for people to accept it. In the future the greatest challenge for mankind will be to produce food in ever greater quantities, and insects can be an important source. Maybe if we used other insects instead of cockroaches, the reaction would be different, but as we use them to make flour and it is impossible to identify which insect was used, we decided to take the risk.”

And the results of bread made from the flour? Lucas and Menegon testified that everyone who tasted breads made from their roach flour unanimously said the change in taste from regular flour was imperceptible. In fact, when products with more ingredients were tested, such as cake and cereals, the change in taste was even less noticeable. However, the two admitted as well that most people who knew it was roach flour chose not to taste any products made.

But taste may not be a factor in deciding what to eat n a future without meat products.

“The UN estimates that by 2050 there will be no land area available for food production to supply the entire population of the world. In the case of insect breeding, smaller spaces are used and it is an extremely ecological production because much less water is used and the insects produce fewer gases [contributing] to the greenhouse effect than the cattle,” the two scientists said to a reporter in a recient interview. “In the end of the process, we are also able to use the insect in its totality, which doesn’t happen with cattle because many parts are not used for human consumption. Today this is not yet a reality, but in the future people will need to get used to this idea.”

So, while the nasty roaches that roam around sewers and dirty areas remain as disgusting as ever, Lucas and Menegon may be able to change the perspective on carefully farmed cockroaches. And who knows? Maybe this revolution will one day prevent world hunger! As we run out of protein sources, it is certainly an interesting solution to the food epidemic.

By: Abigail Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)