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Are essays are the way to encourage entomophagy?

Brits find the idea of eating insects difficult to stomach but new research by the University of Reading suggests a way to open their minds: write about it.

The study published in the journal Appetite used ‘utility-value interventions’, which are basically assignments designed to help people make connections about what they are learning and their lives.

Participants researched and wrote either an essay designed to increase interest and value in entomophagy or a control essay. They then completed a rating task assessing their willingness to try insects and familiar foods, along with other key attributes, such as sustainability. 

The utility-value intervention increased willingness to try eating insects. In a separate study they also found a potentially similar (but smaller) effect of researching an insect-based recipe on people’s willingness to consume things like crickets.

Research by the Food Standards Agency in 2022 showed one in four people were willing to try eating insects. However, only half felt that they are safe to eat.

Acheta Domesticus (or house crickets) were recently deemed ‘within scope of novel foods regime and valid’ by the Food Standards Agency. It’s already taken 18 months and thousands of pounds to get this far but the insect has only passed the ‘sense-checking’ phase and should now progress on to assessment. 

Geoff Knott, co-founder of cricket bar producer HOP and the man who has been leading the application with the UK Edible Insects Association, expects it will be another 12 months until final approval. The crickets are one of seven species covered in the transitional agreement following Brexit, allowing them to be sold in Great Britain until the end of this year. After that they can only be sold if an application has been submitted to the FSA. 

“A clearer, simpler and more lightweight authorisation for novel foods is still on my Christmas 2024 wish list,” said Knott.