EU approves mealworms for dinner

Mealworms are on the menu in Europe.

The yellow grubs have just become the first insect approved for human consumption by the European Food Safety Agency.

Rich in protein, fat, and fiber, they can be use whole or dried in curries, or even as a flour to bake bread.

Food scientist Ermolaos Ververis.

"In this specific safety evaluation for yellow mealworm, we saw that the proposed usage includes in this novel food the ingredient for making biscuits, pasta, some legume-based dishes, some energy bars. But from other applications that we are currently evaluating, we have seen that there is an interest to use these kind of novel foods as ingredients in a really big range of other foodstuff, for example we have seen it as an ingredient in meat imitates, in sausages, in drinks and beverages."

Despite the name, mealworms are actually beetle larvae rather than worms.

And they’re already used in Europe as a pet food ingredient.

Experts expect them to be the first of many insects to appear on Europeans' plates in the coming years.

"Of course, if in the future there is a different novel food produced using Tenebrio molitor, the yellow mealworm larvae, as a source and there are significant differences in the production process, big differences concerning the proposed usage or the use levels. Then, different assessments will be needed. But in this case, under the specific proposed use and use levels for this application, the panel has concluded that it's safe to consume this novel food."

Europe has been relatively slow on the uptake of insect-based foods.

Some sociologists say Europeans have a particularly strong ‘yuck’ reflex at the thought of eating insects.

But people across much of the world - including parts of Africa, Australia and New Zealand - are already enjoying tucking into insect bars, cricket burgers and even grilled scorpions.

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) UNIVERSITY OF COSTA RICA STUDENT, VANESSA ROJAS, SAYING:

"Worms and crickets are nourishing so there's no reason to be afraid to eat them."

(SOUNDBITE) (English) THE INSECT EXPERIENCE CUSTOMER, ANGELO CARELSE, SAYING:

"It didn't taste like insects. It tasted like croquette, it tasted like potato and chickpeas... slightly nutty and spicy which I believe is the insect."

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CHEF FERNANDO VILLAGOMEZ SAYING:

It's like, some people, they never eat real sushi, they're like, what the heck is that, they're afraid, they're kind of like, how am I going to eat that? And then when they eat it, they never go back."