Food Standards Agency Confirms Edible Insects Can Once Again be Placed on the GB Market

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed that edible insects lawfully placed on the market prior to Brexit can once again be marketed in Great Britain.

The Novel Food Regulations and the grace period

In 2018, the Novel Food Regulations were updated to incorporate 'whole insects and their parts', meaning all insects are considered to be novel foods unless they are one of a limited number of species that have been consumed to a significant degree within the EU prior to 1997 (i.e., the German cheese mite). A transitional grace period was put in place to allow businesses time to comply. The effect of which was that edible insects lawfully placed on the market by 1 January 2018 and for which the EU had received a novel food application for by 1 January 2019, could continue to be placed on the market until a final decision was issued regarding a novel food authorisation. Those provisions formed part of the UK's 'retained EU law'.

However, following the UK's departure from the EU, the FSA's position was that the transitional grace period, relied upon by the edible insect industry, expired on 2 January 2020. For any novel food applications made to the EC before 1 January 2021 with the assessment process still pending, applicants would need to re-submit their application to the FSA, using the FSA's own application service.

In respect of Northern Ireland, the FSA stated that they would not be enforcing the same long-stop date as the rest of the UK.

Edible Insects Permitted Again

In a significant development, the FSA has now made it clear that the transitional measures did not, in fact, end on 2 January 2020; rather, this was the latest date by which applicants needed to submit applications for authorisation to the EC in order to trigger the transitional period.

In addition, the FSA has made it clear that the Flour mite is included in the list of species that have been consumed to a significant degree within the EU prior to 1997, along with the German cheese mite. Therefore, both can be placed on the GB market.

The position in Northern Ireland remains the same and until a final decision has been adopted by the EU with regards to applications meeting the Article 35(2) of Regulation 2015/2283 criteria, these products can continue to be sold on the Northern Ireland market.

It remains the case that Novel Food Applications granted after Brexit cannot be relied upon in GB. For example, despite the EU adopting a regulation allowing dried yellow mealworms to be placed on the market around this time, this did not apply to the GB market. We cover this in more detail in our article: 'European Food Safety Authority gives first Novel Food go-ahead for insects – can the UK keep up?'

Next steps

The FSA intends to issue a consultation in July proposing amends to the regulation which sets out the transition period (Article 35(2) of Regulation 2015/2283). The consultation will include a transitional period of edible insects specific to GB, to come into force in late 2022.

We will continue to monitor the position and any further publications closely.