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2017-2018 Bacterial Pathogens in Edible Insects


The consumption of edible insects has a long history in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In recent years there has been an increased interest in eating edible insects in Europe and North America. Consequently, a growing number of edible insect products have become available to Canadians, such as dried whole insects, insect powder, and insect-containing snacks (e.g., chips, crackers, and cookies). Edible insects are promoted to be a sustainable, cost effective source of protein, thereby ensuring future food security. Although most of the popular edible insects around the world have a history of safe use for human consumption, edible insects are not traditionally consumed by the Canadian population. Little scientific information is available regarding the control of microbiological pathogens during the rearing and processing of edible insects. Nevertheless, edible insects produced for human consumption and available to Canadian consumers must meet the same safety and hygiene standards as other foods available in Canada.

Considering the factors mentioned above and their relevance to Canadians, edible insects were selected to be part of a preliminary survey to gain basic food safety information. Over the course of this study (April 1, 2017 – March 30, 2018), a total of 51 samples of edible insects (dried whole insects or insect powder) were acquired from online retailers or collected at physical retail establishments in Canada. Samples were tested for the bacterial pathogen Salmonella species (spp.) and generic Escherichia coli (E. coli) which is an indicator of the overall sanitation conditions throughout the food production chain.

Salmonella spp. and generic E. coli (>100 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/g) were not found in any of the samples analysed and therefore it appears that the edible insects have been produced under sanitary conditions. As the number of samples, product types and microorganisms tested for in our study were limited, our results have been interpreted with caution. Further studies are required to determine whether current industry practices regarding the rearing, processing, handling and storage of edible insects result in the production of food-grade products. Consequently, as with all foods, safe food handling practices are recommended for producers, retailers and consumers.

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