Flour insect allergy: symptoms, causes and remedies


Insect flour – especially cricket – is used for the production of bread, pasta, pizza, crackers, biscuits. On the topic, in addition to the controversy over eating them yes or no, the problem also emerges regarding the possible risks, still little known, relating to their consumption, with eyes focused in particular on the allergies and any ailments that the new food could cause. From the first research and analyzes on the subject it emerged that those who are allergic to shrimps and crustaceans, but also to molluscs and mites, i.e. around 800 thousand people in Italy, can, due to a cross-reaction, also be allergic to insect-based foods.

Allergic reaction to insect flour: symptoms

Cricket flour allergy

The sale of flours based on crickets, locusts, larvae and mealworms has already passed on the table of European Commission. On this topic the Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, Francesco Lollobrigida, he declared to the Print, the following: «We make a choice of protection towards citizens. The label must not influence but inform. It's not the Nutriscore. If citizens want to eat cricket or larva flour they can do so but it must be a conscious choice. The label will indicate how much cricket flour there is, what risk there will be of allergies because a lot still needs to be tested.”

Causes of insect flour allergy

The majority of food allergies associated with the consumption of insects, specialists explain, are caused by two proteins: tropomyosin and arginine kinase, both present in insects, which stimulate the production of Immunoglobulins E, antibodies associated with allergic reactions.

After authorization for sale in the European Union, insect-based foods will be found not only in restaurants, but also on the shelves of large-scale retail trade. The risk is that of not having enough information on the risks relating to their consumption and any adverse reactions. What has been demonstrated is that flours and insect-based foods, especially crickets, are sources of protein and contain little fat and sugar, however this does not mean that these foods are to be considered completely harmless. Cases of allergies have already been recorded in China, the United States and in some cases in Europe.

The majority of food allergies associated with the consumption of insects, as highlighted by specialists, derive from two proteins that stimulate the production of antibodies associated with allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Enemy proteins are recognized and trigger reactions responsible for the characteristic symptoms of food allergies such as; itching and swelling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and, in more severe cases, anaphylactic shock. Allergies to insect-based foods can also occur as a consequence of an allergy to other foods, due to cross-reactivity.

In this regard, important recommendations emerge for those subjects who already have allergies, in particular to foods such as shrimp and crustaceans, but also to dust, even if hypersensitivity to insects is less frequent in those who are allergic to dust mites.

Here's how to recognize insect bites.

Cricket flour: what is it?

Some food industries are focusing on producing insect-based foods. Among the various species, one in particular seems to be particularly suitable for breeding: the grillo of land (Genus Purchased).

This animal seems to boast noteworthy nutritional characteristics; without considering that the relationship between breeding costs, timing and yield is unparalleled. The company that was the first to develop a cricket-based product intended for human consumption is “Tiny Farms“, based in California. With a considerable economic investment, it has placed on the market a real animal meal based on insects: the cricket flour (cricket flour / powder).

With a typically “dusty” consistency, cricket flour usually has a dark brown color, contains very little fat e, protein concentration al 60-70% of the total mass and ad high biological value. Crickets are very rich in minerals e vitamins, such as calcium, potassium, iron and vitamin B12 (cobalamin), vitamin B2 etc.; in conclusion, they would seem to be a real panacea for bone growth and for the prevention of anemia.

Subjects most at risk

  • Shrimp
  • Crustaceans
  • Clams
  • Dust mites

Allergies to insect-based foods can also occur as a consequence of an allergy to other foods, due to cross-reactivity. In particular, people who already have other allergies to shrimp and shellfish should be careful, because in these cases, “the IgE cross-reactivity to tropomyosin it has also been demonstrated in other species of edible insects also used for the production of flour.


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