Edible insects in China: Utilization and prospects

Ying Feng et al.

Review Insect Sci. 2018 Apr;25(2):184-198. doi: 10.1111/1744-7917.12449. Epub 2017 Apr 20.



The use of edible insects has a long history in China, where they have been consumed for more than 2000 years. In general, the level of acceptance is high for the consumption of insects in China. Many studies on edible insects have been conducted in the last 20 years, and the scope of the research includes the culture of entomophagy and the identification, nutritional value, farming and breeding of edible insects, in addition to food production and safety. Currently, 324 species of insects from 11 orders are documented that are either edible or associated with entomophagy in China, which include the common edible species, some less commonly consumed species and some medicinal insects. However, only approximately 10 to 20 types of insects are regularly consumed. The nutritional values for 174 species are available in China, including edible, feed and medicinal species. Although the nutritional values vary among species, all the insects examined contain protein, fat, vitamins and minerals at levels that meet human nutritional requirements. Edible insects were, and continue to be, consumed by different ethnic groups in many parts of China. People directly consume insects or food products made from insects. The processing of products from insect protein powder, oil and chitin, and the development of healthcare foods has been studied in China. People also consume insects indirectly by eating livestock that were fed insects, which may be a more acceptable pathway to use insects in human diets. Although limited, the data on the food safety of insects indicate that insects are safe for food or feed. Incidences of allergic reactions after consuming silkworm pupae, cicadas and crickets have been reported in China. Insect farming is a unique breeding industry in rural China and is a source of income for local people. Insects are reared and bred for human food, medicine and animal feed using two approaches in China: the insects are either fully domesticated and reared completely in captivity or are partially raised in captivity, and the insect habitat is manipulated to increase production. Depending on the type of relationship the insect has with humans, plants and the environment, different farming strategies are used. The social and scientific communities must work together to promote the use of insects as food and feed.

Keywords: edible insects; entomophagy; insect farming; insect food safety; nutritive value.

Resource from PubMed