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Nation not ready for insect diet, expert warns

By Yang Yao (China Daily)

08:12, May 17, 2013

Duan Ying, 24, samples fried scorpion in Wangfujing, Beijing. (China Daily/Wang Jing)

An expert says China is not ready for mass consumption of insects, which the UN Food and Agricultural Organization claims could protect the environment and help solve the food crisis.

The solution to the global problem comes in a research report titled Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security, issued by the organization.

The publication also covers other creatures eaten by humans, including spiders and scorpions.

High in protein, vitamins, fiber and mineral content, insects will become a new dietary trend, the report states.

However, Gao Xiwu, an entomologist at Chinese Agricultural University who specializes in the economic value of insects, said China, one of the largest insect-consuming countries, is not ready for the mass consumption of insects.

"A clear and comprehensive food safety standard is needed to pave the way for promoting insects as food," he said.

Some insects carry toxins, pesticide residue and bacteria, and the method of preparing them as food is not sufficient to prevent potential risks, Gao said.

On Beijing’s Wangfujing food street, scorpions and silkworm chrysalis are sold after being fried or roasted. Three fried scorpions on a stick are sold for 25 yuan ($4).

The manager of the food street, who would only give his surname, Du, said scorpions can be found in any traditional Chinese medicine.

"If these ingredients can be used in medicine, there is no need to worry about safety when eating them," he said.

Guo Huanchao, a manager at the Yunteng restaurant in Beijing, where fried locust, honey bee pupae and bamboo worms are served, said there are no set guidelines on preparing insects as food.

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