Insects are healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples but we don’t always eat them knowingly
People around the world eat insects unknowingly, as it is almost impossible to avoid contamination by insects or their parts in food and many states had worked out lists with prescribed permissible levels of insect contamination in food. Therefore, it is obvious that also the people who dislike insects have consumed insects or parts of them before, which contaminated food during food production or processing.
For many nations and ethnic groups, especially in Asia, Africa, South America and Australia insects are an indispensable and really traditional food. However, the availability of freely living edible insects is unpredictable, both in time and in location. Therefore, such ethnic groups must leverage current food supplies, as they lack the more sophisticated methods of preservation than drying in the sun or smoking over a fire. This readily available source of food is also used because of the sheer necessity.
The taste of insects depends on many factors – primarily the species of insects, stage of live-cycle and food received. Given the large number of known species of edible insects and experience of native inhabitants, there is no problem all over the world to choose those, which conform to the current taste of eater. The dishes with a harmonious taste may represent true gourmet delicacies.
Large numbers of known edible insect species at the same time also offer a choice of species regarding the nutritional requirements of consumers not only to replenish essential nutrients, but also microelements. For Australian Aborigines insects provide sugar (honey ants, sugar bags, and lerps) and fat. Ants containing much iron can substitute chemical sources of this element. Insects can be an alternative for vegetarians, because to some of them insects, unlike livestock meat, can be acceptable and addition of animal foods greatly increases the amino acid score of food.
Human population is growing exponentially and according to the opinion of specialists, we are very close to the global food crisis and famine. As people in rural areas suffer from under nutrition, especially protein-energy malnutrition, alternative-nutritional food source is needed – among other sources also insects with a high-fat content. Current field crop management practices and the potential of animals, used as a source of animal protein, are reaching their limits. The world is calling for a review of food and its resources obtaining methods.