Insects, Italian Cuisine, and “Natural Remedies”

edible insects

And entomophagy continues to collect momentum in the press! The Digital Journal released a nice piece a few days ago titled, “Are insects better than Italian cuisine? Some people think so!” In it, they discussed a valid point: what we consider food is largely influenced by culture. Something completely normal to you may be offensively gross to eat, from another culture’s perspective.

The article looks in particular at the Bozzaotra bros – a duo selling insects as food to a growing Italian market. Most fascinating to me was the brief (but MASSIVELY CLEVER) quip on regulations that the article contained. As some of my readers know, I’ve been fascinated by the development of the regulatory scene around the growing entomophagy field. I’ve written a few articles about theregulation of insects as food – focusing on the barriers they present. *SPOILER ALERT* The Bozzaotra bros, geniuses that they are, passed their insect delicacies off as “natural remedies” in order to bypass the strict government regulations.

I’ve copied the article below in case you’re interested!

Silk Worms

“To many people, insects may look disgusting to watch: the idea of eating them really sounds crazy. However, it’s just a matter of “local tradition” and eating habits. When we talk about food, we know many things that some people find revolting in a given town can be considered a true delicacy in a nearby one just a few kilometers away. A couple of Italian entrepreneurs, which incidentally are two brothers like the famous Italian plumbers made famous by Nintendo, tried to change the stereotypical idea of bugs being disgusting in their own country.

The Bozzaotra bros started back in the early 2000s when they started breeding insects as food for rare and exotic animals. After a couple of years, however, they found that there was a huge demand of insects as food but not for just other animals… but for people as well. Italian cuisine is known in the whole world as one of the best forms of cooking. Full of exquisite treats such as the Sicilian pastries (think about the famous Cannoli and Cassata cake), and home of the world-wide famous pizza, Italian food doesn’t seem to marry especially well with cockroaches and ants. Yet, the two brothers claim Italian customers buying insect food are aplenty and that their small company is barely able to satisfy them all with its production.

“Insect delicacies” range from fried wasps to chocolate-coated scorpions and canned crickets. Italian laws on food are very strict, however, and the two brothers need to re-brand their buzzing treats with the “novel food” label on it. By passing them as “natural remedies” with the typical Italian ingenuity, they somewhat cheated out the strict government restrictions to please their most demanding clients.

Entomophagy is a normal practice for over 2 billion human beings through the world, yet very few citizens from Western countries seem to accept the idea of eating a cooked bug. Other than being considered “delicious” by many people, insects are a very nutrient-rich food source. Bugs protein content is very similar to meat one, although with a reduced content of dangerous fats. It is also rich in several minerals and vitamins, such as the precious vitamin B12. Insect flours contain no gluten and are thus suitable for celiac disease patients, and are free from all the antibiotics and hormones used to feed livestock animals. Eating insects is also viewed as an ethical practice due to its high sustainability. Even the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) advocates its ecological superiority in preserving our environment. Insects require significantly lower feed than livestock animals, and they also emit reduced ammonia and greenhouse gasses. Whether we find them disgusting or not, it still seems that insects are still the “food of the future.”

 

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