As has been widely covered in local and national press in and around the Washington, DC area, this month marks the once every seventeen year emergence of the Brood X cicadas. These insects are so plentiful in local areas with trees, including FDA’s aptly named White Oak campus, that they have prompted lots of advice about whether it is safe for human and pets to consume them. At this point in the cicada cycle, a very unscientific sample of data seems to suggest that most dog owners have concluded that it is both unnecessary and futile to dissuade dogs from consuming them. Intake by humans appears more selective, but those in the know are strong advocates.
Globally, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Association has been reporting on insects as a human food source for some time, and recently issued a report that again recognizes the benefits of insect agriculture and lays out opportunities and challenges for the sector going forward. Insects have long been consumed in a number of regions, but have been slow to find acceptance in the west. That is slowly changing, partly in response to interest in more sustainable sources of protein. Earlier this year, the European Food Safety Authority found certain food uses of mealworms to be safe. In the US, insect-based products have started showing up at select grocery stores, and interest is building in the use of insects in food for animals. In a potential sign of things to come, last year a major pet food manufacturer launched a line of insect based dog and cat food in Switzerland.
A lot has changed in the FDA regulatory space since the last time cicadas were in the DC area in 2004. By 2038 will humans and pets be eagerly anticipating a rare vintage of Brood X-based food products? We wouldn’t bet against it, and we’ll be following and posting on developments in this area in the interim.