It seems every day we’re being bombarded with more and more “thinkpieces” about how we should – and will – be eating lots of insects in the future, instead of traditional sources of protein – which would alarm bodybuilding aficionados more than any other group!
In Canada, for instance, the Canadian government is funding the construction of the world’s largest cricket farm, for human consumption.
But the unpleasant truth, beyond the fact that eating insects is hardly appetizing for most people in the West, is that insects are also loaded with potentially harmful parasites, according to scientists.
Insects: loaded with parasites
The study in question, “A parasitological evaluation of edible insects and their role in the transmission of parasitic diseases to humans and animals,” reveals some very nasty potential problems with bug consumption:
The experimental material comprised samples of live insects (imagines) from 300 household farms and pet stores, including 75 mealworm farms, 75 house cricket farms, 75 Madagascar hissing cockroach farms and 75 migrating locust farms. Parasites were detected in 244 (81.33%) out of 300 (100%) examined insect farms. In 206 (68.67%) of the cases, the identified parasites were pathogenic for insects only; in 106 (35.33%) cases, parasites were potentially parasitic for animals; and in 91 (30.33%) cases, parasites were potentially pathogenic for humans. Edible insects are an underestimated reservoir of human and animal parasites.
Our research indicates the important role of these insects in the epidemiology of parasites pathogenic to vertebrates. Conducted parasitological examination suggests that edible insects may be the most important parasite vector for domestic insectivorous animals. According to our studies the future research should focus on the need for constant monitoring of studied insect farms for pathogens, thus increasing food and feed safety.
There is also significant uncertainty about whether chitin, a substance that is an essential part of the exoskeleton of many insects, is edible and whether consumption could be implicated in the a variety of harmful conditions, from auto-immune responses to cancer.
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