New foods are already part of reality, today we can find restaurants whose menus include rare ingredients that are not part of the typical gastronomy of the West. Which are?
Today we can find restaurants and shops with all kinds of food, and with offers that include the culinary delights of each country, bringing us products that are not typical of our gastronomy . But, apart from the vegetables from each growing area or the different ways of preparing it, nowadays we can also taste “foods” that in our culture we have rarely considered as such. Crickets, violets, mealworms , begonias, chia seeds …? Are they food?
What are the new foods?
The Spanish Agency for Consumption, Food Safety and Nutrition ( AECOSAN ) defines that when we talk about “new foods” we can be talking about these products:
- Foods that are consumed outside the European Union and within it their consumption has not been common in recent years, such as insects .
- Food produced using new technologies and production processes. Like food treated with ultraviolet radiation.
- Newly created or innovative foods , such as Antarctic Krill oil (Krill is a kind of tiny shrimp, from which oil has been extracted for a few years).
Although flowers , or parts of them, have been consumed for a long time, because saffron , without going any further, are the stigmas of a flower, or of broccoli , for example, we also consume the floral part, usually before As the flowers begin to open, etc., they are used more and more both to dress and to decorate dishes.
This past summer the media echoed a work from the University of Granada that called attention to the lack of legislation on edible flowers . Well, there is regulation in this regard, for example, maximum limits of certain components in different types of flowers, but it would be necessary to detail lists of suitable and unsuitable specimens for consumption, as is the case with mushrooms.
Nutritional contribution of flowers
Flowers are plant foods very rich in water that also contain vitamins, minerals and different types of bioactive substances. Now, in the amount in which we usually take them, we speak of rather ornamental flowers such as violets, geraniums or pansy , not broccoli or similar examples, their interest is not precisely the nutritional content, because we are going to eat a small quantity. In this case, the color, texture and aroma are what you are looking for when including them in a dish.
If we want to include flowers in the preparation of our dishes , we must always choose those that have been grown in order to be consumed. We must bear in mind that, although there are species of plants with edible flowers, we should not consume them if they have been grown for ornamental purposes . The products with which the flowers for food consumption should be treated are specific products for this purpose, as happens with the rest of the foods.
Years ago the insect trade began, but Spanish legislation had a legal vacuum in this regard. Currently, insects are included in the definition of “novel food” in the new Regulation, which provides for two types of procedures applicable to insects:
the application for authorization of novel foods, or the notification as traditional food from third countries, which will be based on in the history of safe food use in a third country, such that such foods must have been consumed in at least one third country for at least 25 years as part of the usual diet of a significant number of people.
Therefore, in order to start the commercialization of a new species of insects for human consumption, an application for authorization or notification must be submitted and wait for the European Commission to include it on the Union list.
So today we can buy crickets, beetles, scorpions, ants and different types of worms that are considered fit for human consumption and approved by European legislation. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends further research to obtain data on the presence of chemicals in farmed insects or the use of these as part of livestock feed.
Nutritional contribution of insects
In each type of insect the nutritional content will vary, but these are small animals that will mainly provide us with proteins . And in the case of larvae, the fat content will not be negligible, it seems that it is mainly based on polyunsaturated fatty acids.
They can also provide us with calcium, magnesium and B vitamins . But, being realistic, as in the case of flowers, except that we have a very unconventional diet to be in the West, the amount of insects that we can consume will be anecdotal and it will not suppose, in principle, a great nutritional difference in our feeding.
What does the regulation say about these new foods?
As of January 1, 2018, Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the Council of November 25, 2015 on novel foods came into force . Novel foods are those that had not been largely consumed by humans in the European Union before May 15, 1997, which was when the first Regulation on novel foods came into force .
In order to consider a new food as suitable or valid, it must be:
- Safe for consumers.
- It must be correctly labeled , so as not to mislead consumers.
- If the new food is intended to replace another food, it must not differ in a way that the consumption of the new food is nutritionally disadvantageous to the consumer.
- Therefore, prior authorization for the marketing of new foods is necessary based on a safety assessment in accordance with the above principles.
What you should know…
- There is specific regulation to regulate the use of new foods in order to ensure that they are safe and correctly labeled.
- For many years we have been consuming flowers or parts of them such as artichokes or saffron, but more and more varieties are being marketed.
- Insects are part of the foods included in the new regulation of new foods , thus being regulated their use as food.