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Fancy salted egg crab with superworms? SFA approves 16 insect species for food

Fancy salted egg crab with superworms? SFA approves 16 insect species for food
House of Seafood's sushi topped with juicy silkworms and crispy crickets (left) and their salted egg crab dish with superworms.
PHOTO: House of Seafood

SINGAPORE — Fancy some lychee balls with crispy chilli crickets or sushi with superworms?

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said on July 8 that it has approved some 16 species of insects for consumption, much to the delight of industry players who have been gearing up for this long-awaited moment.

The insects include various species of crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, mealworms and silkworms.

House of Seafood restaurant's chief executive Francis Ng is cooking up a menu of 30 insect-infused dishes. Of the 16 approved species, the restaurant will be offering superworms, crickets and silkworm pupae on its menu.

The insects will be added to some of its seafood dishes, such as salted egg crab, for example.

Prior to the approval, the restaurant had been getting five to six calls daily inquiring about its insect-based dishes, and when customers can start ordering them, Ng said.

"Many of our customers, especially young people who are under 30 years old, are very daring. They want to be able to see the whole insect in the dish. So I'm giving them many options to choose from," he said.

He anticipates that sales from insect-based dishes will increase his revenue by around 30 per cent.

Javier Yip, founder of logistics company Declarators, has set up another business to import insects for sale in Singapore, offering a range of bug snacks from white grub to silkworms, as well as crickets and mealworms.

Insects have been touted by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation as a more sustainable alternative to meat, as they have high protein content and produce less greenhouse gas emissions when farmed.

Having already secured a licence to import these insects to Singapore, Yip is working with farms in China, Thailand and Vietnam to supply these bugs to the local market. 

Selling under the brand name InsectYumz, several types of insect snacks will be available for a start, for instance original and tom yum-flavoured crickets and mealworms. There will also be cricket powder, which is a protein powder. 

These items will soon be listed on his website and other e-commerce sites, as well as supermarkets and restaurants, he added.

As he runs a logistics company, Yip feels that he has the know-how and ability to import these insects into Singapore.

Asked why he decided to venture into importing insects, Yip said: "I enjoy eating them; in fact, the first time I tried an insect was at a shop in Tampines in the 1990s."

While the shop has since closed, he hopes to be able to provide these snacks to those who might enjoy them, particularly young people, Yip said. 

The upcoming approval will be a long time coming for some players here.

The Straits Times reported in October 2022 that SFA began public consultations on the possibility of allowing 16 species of insects for consumption.

In April 2023, SFA said it would give the green light for these species to be consumed in the second half of 2023. This deadline was later pushed back further to the first half of 2024.

Already, at least two industry players — Singapore-based Future Proteins Solutions and Asia Insect Farm Solutions — decided to call it quits, as the long wait had thrown their business viability into question.

But other companies, such as Altimate Nutrition, have persisted with its consumer education efforts over the years, hoping to garner interest among younger people. Its main product offerings are cricket-infused protein bars, which come in a range of flavours, from strawberry to banana chocolate. 

During the period while it was awaiting SFA's regulatory approval, the company conducted workshops and educational sessions at almost a hundred schools, reaching out to students of all ages, from pre-schools to institutes of higher learning, said its co-founder, Hiew Yuen Sheng.

"During our workshops, we target mostly young people who may be more adventurous when it comes to trying insects, and we educate them on the benefits of insects as a more sustainable protein source," he said.

"According to the surveys, which we conducted after the programme, around 80 per cent of students have indicated that they would be willing to try the insects once they've been approved," he added. 

Altimate Nutrition is hoping to launch its cricket protein bars at eco-friendly store Green Collective, as soon as possible, to be the "first movers", Hiew said. 

It is collaborating with various food and beverage players — for instance, it supplies House of Seafood with some of its bugs and the company is also working with Origin Bar, which is looking to launch a cricket-based cocktail. 

To further move the needle in research and development, Altimate Nutrition has partnered with its supplier, Thai insect farm Global Bugs, to form a joint venture known as ProteinInnovation.  

ProteinInnovation will look into growing crickets in the most productive, cost-effective way and the collaboration will also help Global Bugs to better tap into the Singaporean market, said co-founder and chief executive Kanitsanan Thanthitiwat.

"While there are many cricket farms in the Thai market, the challenge lies in determining who can produce the largest volume of crickets and in the most cost-effective way," she said.

ProteinInnovation will be raising funds to build another high-tech cricket farm in Thailand, which is capable of growing around 200 tonnes of crickets a year — 20 times more than its current capacity.

The crickets will be bred, using automation in little "boxes", to alleviate manpower costs, and being modular, these can easily be scaled up, she added. 

Other companies are waiting to test consumer reception before deciding on their launch plans.  

Mr Aaron Chen, the chief executive of Werms, which currently sells insects such as crickets and mealworms as pet food, is waiting to see if there is any consumer demand for his insects, before deciding to offer them for human consumption.  

While these insects are grown in a similar way — be it for humans or for pets — greater biosecurity measures will be needed if they are to be sold for human consumption. A new farm will also have to be set up to prevent cross-contamination, for example, and a new licence will be needed as well.

"While we can scale up rather quickly, there might be quite a bit of costs involved for us to venture into the edible insect market, so we'll wait and see what happens," he told ST.


Japanese start-up Morus is looking to launch a range of silkworm-based products here, targeting both high-end restaurants and consumers, as they are high-income and health conscious, said Ryo Sato, its chief executive.

Its products include a pure silkworm powder — which can be used as a food ingredient — along with matcha powder, protein powder and protein bars, which boast high protein and amino acid content, along with other key nutrients such as vitamins, fibre and minerals.

Acknowledging that Singaporean consumers do not have a history of consuming insects, Morus will also conduct more pop-up events and consumer workshops, Sato said. 

Once it is able to scale up and reduce costs of production, Morus will start focusing on the mass market, he added.

Currently, each 500g bottle of protein powder will cost $248, and can last for a month if consumed daily. 

But its matcha powder will be priced more affordably, Sato said, without specifying a price.

The company is also hoping to work with luxury restaurants, both in Singapore and other parts of South-east Asia and Europe, to integrate Morus' silkworm-based products into their dishes, before targeting the mass market.  

Food safety and labelling requirements

SFA said on July 8 that those intending to import or farm insects for human consumption or livestock feed must meet SFA's guidelines, which includes providing documentary proof that the imported insects are farmed in regulated establishments with food safety controls and are not harvested from the wild.

Insects that are not on SFA's list of 16 will have to undergo evaluation to ensure that the species are safe to consume, the agency said.

Companies selling pre-packed food containing insects will also be required to label their packaging as such, so that consumers can make informed decisions on whether to purchase the product.

Insect products will also be subject to food safety testing and those which are found to be non-compliant with the agency's standards will not be allowed for sale, SFA said.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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