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The idea is that expired foods could be used into a food powder
FoPo Food Powder is made using expired fruits and could potentially end world hunger.
The world wastes about 2,205 pounds of food every day, which is around one-third of all food produced. There may not be an answer for ending world hunger just yet, but this Kickstarter campaign might be close to finding one.
FoPo Food Powder was created by a group of students from Lund University in Sweden, who found a way to turn expired food into a powder. The process actually stops the foods from going bad and extends their shelf lives. The students, who are master’s candidates in a program for food innovation and product design, found a way to dry out the foods and pulverize them into a powder.
Surprisingly, the powders can last for two years and maintain nutritional value from the foods. They can be used to create veggie soups, smoothies, yogurt toppings, baking, and fruit juices.
FoPo is currently being sold at a few supermarkets in the Philippines. After Typhoon Haiyan hit the country in November 2013, 27 percent of the country’s population remained food insecure months.
The food powders could become available to the general public in the very near future: The team is negotiating possible partners and exceeded their Kickstarter goal of 180,000 Swedish krona, which is approximately $21,150 in U.S. dollars.
Eight ways to solve world hunger
An ugly side of current scares over future food supply is wealthy, land-poor states, like those in the Gulf and South Korea, acquiring tracts of undeveloped countries to use as allotments. It is a campaigning cause of the multi-charity IF campaign against hunger. Ethiopia, Sudan, Madagascar and Cambodia have been targeted and a total area the size of Spain may already have been acquired.
Problem: Hard to police. Difficult to distinguish between genuine investment in Africa and the expropriation of land from the poor who need it to grow their food. Chances: 3/10
Mountain House comes in lightweight, convenient packaging that allows you to prepare and eat your delicious meal right out of the package. No pots or pans are ever required with our meals, making us the perfect on-the-go solution.
Whether you’re summiting a mountain, preparing for a storm, or just trying to survive a hectic schedule, Mountain House promises to keep you fed in 10 minutes or less. Spend less time cooking (just add water) and more time enjoying what’s around you.
How insects could feed the world
A t first, my meal seems familiar, like countless other dishes I’ve eaten at Asian restaurants. A swirl of noodles slicked with oil and studded with shredded chicken, the aroma of ginger and garlic, a few wilting chives placed on the plate as a final flourish. And then, I notice the eyes. Dark, compound orbs on a yellow speckled head, joined to a winged, segmented body. I hadn’t spotted them right away, but suddenly I see them everywhere – my noodles are teeming with insects. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I’ve agreed to be a guinea pig at an experimental insect tasting in Wageningen, a university town in the Netherlands. My hosts are Ben Reade and Josh Evans from the Nordic Food Lab, a non-profit culinary research institute. Reade and Evans lead the lab’s “insect deliciousness” project, a three-year effort to turn insects into tasty treats. The project began after René Redzepi (the chef and co-owner of Noma, the Danish restaurant that is often ranked the best in the world) tasted an Amazonian ant that reminded him of lemongrass. Redzepi, who founded the Nordic Food Lab in 2008, became interested in serving insects at Noma and asked the researchers at the lab to explore the possibilities. The Food Lab operates from a houseboat in Copenhagen, but Reade and Evans are in the Netherlands for a few days, and they’ve borrowed a local kitchen to try out some brand new dishes. Along with three other gutsy gastronomes, I am here to taste the results. We take our seats at a long, high table as Reade and Evans wheel in a trolley loaded with our meals. We each receive a different main course. I get the Asian-style noodles and fixate on the bug I can see. “That’s a locust,” Reade says. “[It] was alive this morning. Very fresh.” But he’s much more excited about another, hidden ingredient: fat extracted from the larvae of black soldier flies (or, to put it less delicately, maggot fat). The whole dish has been stir-fried in it.
“I believe you’re the first human being on the planet to have ever been served anything cooked with this,” Reade tells me. But not to worry: “I’ve eaten some of it myself, an hour ago. I’m still alive.”
Reade urges us to begin: “Eat before it gets cold.”
T he next morning, Reade and Evans join 450 of the world’s foremost experts on entomophagy, or insect eating, at a hotel down the road in Ede. They are here for Insects to Feed the World, a three-day conference to “promote the use of insects as human food and as animal feed in assuring food security”.
The attendees are all familiar with the same dire facts. By the year 2050, the planet will be packed with 9 billion people. In low- and middle-income countries, the demand for animal products is rising sharply as economies and incomes grow in the next few decades, we’ll need to work out how to produce enough protein for billions more mouths. Simply ramping up our current system is not really a solution. The global livestock industry already takes an enormous toll on the environment, gobbling up land and water. It’s a potent polluter, because of the animal waste and veterinary medicines that seep into soil and water. And it emits more greenhouse gases than planes, trains and automobiles combined. The insect authorities assembling in Ede believe that entomophagy could be an elegant solution to many of these problems. Insects are full of protein and rich in essential micronutrients, such as iron and zinc. They don’t need as much space as livestock, emit less greenhouse gases, and have a sky-high feed conversion rate: a single kilo of feed yields 12 times more edible cricket protein than beef protein. Some species of insects are drought resistant and may require less water than cows, pigs or poultry.
Insect meal could also replace some of the expensive ingredients, such as soybeans and fishmeal, that are fed to farm animals, potentially lowering the cost of livestock products and freeing up feed crops for human consumption. As an added bonus, bugs can be fed with food scraps and animal manure, so insect farms could increase the world’s supply of protein while reducing and recycling waste.
The list of edible insect species is at 1,900 and growing. Photograph: Gustav Almestål
Officials at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) became interested in the role of insects in food security about a decade ago, after documenting the significant part that insects play in central African diets. Since then, the FAO has been commissioning studies, issuing reports and arranging small meetings on eating insects. The gathering in Ede, jointly organised by the FAO and Wageningen University and Research Centre, is the culmination of all these efforts – the first big international conference to bring together entomologists, entrepreneurs, nutritionists, chefs, psychologists and government officials. They are here to discuss how to expand the use of insects as food and feed, particularly in the west, and to lay the foundation for an edible insect industry – to review the science, identify the obstacles and talk about how to progress.
Over the next three days, they will lay out their vision. It is ambitious and optimistic. They will speculate about creating an insect aisle at the supermarket and fast-food restaurants that serve bug burgers. They will imagine putting packages of “beautiful, clean” shrink-wrapped mealworms on display at the meat counter, alongside the steak and chicken. And they will dream about a world in which forests are thick, land is fertile, the climate is stable, water is clean, waste is minimal, food prices are low, and hunger and malnutrition are rare.
Turning to insects for nourishment is not a new idea – the Bible mentions entomophagy, as do texts from Ancient Greece and Rome. But insect eating never caught on in Europe. The reasons are unknown, but the spread of agriculture – and, in particular, the domestication of livestock – may have made insects, and undomesticated plants and animals in general, less important as food sources. The advent of agriculture may have also contributed to a view that insects were primarily pests and that insect eating was primitive. What’s more, Europe’s temperate climate makes wild harvesting less practical than in the tropics, where insect populations are larger and more predictable.
Nevertheless, entomophagy remains common in some parts of the world: at least 2 billion people worldwide eat insects, according to the FAO. Yellow jacket wasp larvae are popular in Japan, cicadas are treasured in Malawi, and weaver ants are devoured in Thailand. Termites, a favourite in many African nations, can be fried, smoked, steamed, sun-dried or ground into a powder. The list of edible insect species is at 1,900 and growing.
Laura D’Asaro’s first brush with entomophagy came in Tanzania. In the summer of 2011, D’Asaro – a tall, freckled Harvard student with a relentlessly cheerful disposition – had gone to east Africa to take classes in Swahili. One day, she came across a Tanzanian woman standing by the side of the road, selling fried caterpillars out of a big basket. D’Asaro, an on-again off-again vegetarian, wasn’t sure she wanted to eat an insect, but curiosity trumped apprehension. “When else am I going to try fried caterpillar?” she wondered. So she tried not to look too hard at the brown, inch-and-a-half long caterpillar as she placed it in her mouth and chewed. She was pleasantly surprised – the texture and the taste reminded her of lobster.
When the summer ended, D’Asaro returned to the US and moved on with her college life until, two years later, she stumbled across an article on a newly released FAO report called Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security. As she read about the benefits of bug eating, she thought back to her time in Tanzania. “All these things clicked,” she recalls. “It made me reconsider why I was vegetarian and made me realise that insects could be this more sustainable protein that I’d been looking for pretty much my whole life.”
D’Asaro decided to start a company to introduce insects to diners and enlisted two of her college classmates, Rose Wang and Meryl Natow. They began ordering boxes of bugs from pet food companies and playing around in the kitchen, making waxworm tacos and smothering crickets in soy sauce. “We were immediately very impressed with the taste of it all,” D’Asaro says. They teamed up with a Boston-area chef and started developing recipes. But when they shared samples with friends, or tried out their new dishes on the public, it did not go well. “People seemed very frightened.”
They had run smack into what may be the biggest hurdle in expanding insect cuisine: getting people to eat it. Some foods, like chocolate, sell themselves. Insects are not one of those foods. “Insects,” says Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “are disgusting. Things that are disgusting are offensive because of what they are. It’s not that insects taste bad. It’s that the idea of an insect is upsetting to people.”
Rozin, who is known as “the father of disgust in psychology”, has come to the conference in Ede to present his work on consumer attitudes toward insects, and he outlines the challenges that entomophagic entrepreneurs will face. At one point during his talk, he clicks forward to a slide that displays two photos, side by side: a cockroach and Adolf Hitler. “In my research on disgust,” he tells the audience, “these are my two best stimuli. Because they reliably produce negativity.” Insects are so repellent that most Americans, at least, don’t want to consume anything that bugs have ever touched. In the 1980s, Rozin conducted a study in which he invited volunteers to try two different kinds of juice and rate them on a 200-point scale. Then, he briefly submerged a dried, sterilised cockroach in one of the glasses of juice and a birthday candle holder in the other. The participants were asked to evaluate each juice again their ratings of the “cockroached” juice plummeted, by 102 points on average. The candleholder, by contrast, produced a ratings drop of a measly three points.
Water bugs. Photograph: Gustav Almestål
Why do we find insects so disgusting? The answer, Rozin says, is simple: because they’re animals. As a general rule, most of the foods that humans find disgusting are animal products and most animal products are disgusting even the most insatiable carnivores eat only a small fraction of the species that exist on the planet. In some ways, roaches are no different to gorillas, gerbils or iguanas, or any other creatures that we don’t routinely eat. In other ways, though, they’re much worse. Many insect species are found on, in or around waste, and they’re commonly associated with dirt, decay and disease, all of which can significantly up the yuck factor.
D’Asaro and her partners realised that they would need to ease consumers into the idea of bug gastronomy, so they abandoned the idea of serving whole insects and decided to work instead with cricket flour, which could be invisibly incorporated into familiar foods. They decided to launch their company, which they named Six Foods, with a product Americans already love: crisps. They created “chirps”, a triangular crisp made of black beans, rice and cricket flour, which is lightly spritzed with oil and then baked. Chirps are high in protein and low in fat and taste similar to tortilla chips, D’Asaro says, although the cricket flour adds a slightly nutty, savoury flavour.
In some ways, however, chirps are a Trojan horsefly, a way to sneak bugs into American diets and transform sceptics into insectivores. Six Foods hopes to eventually introduce products in which the critters aren’t so hidden. “That’s our ultimate goal,” D’Asaro says. “Where you can go to the store or a restaurant, and you can get a beefburger or a chicken burger or what we call an “ento” burger. But we’re just not quite there yet in society.”
D’Asaro isn’t the only one hoping we get there: in the past few years, there’s been an explosion in businesses trying to put the “meal” into mealworms. A Belgian outfit called Green Kow makes carrot-mealworm, tomato-mealworm and chocolate-mealworm spreads. Ento, based in the UK, sells mealworm and cricket pâtés at food festivals and last year created a pop-up restaurant devoted to insect cuisine. In the US, Chapul and Exo sell protein bars full of cricket flour, while New Generation Nutrition, in the Netherlands, has experimented with a falafel-like chickpea and buffalo worm patty.
Then there are the companies that are raising insects for animal feed, such as AgriProtein, which is based in South Africa and building “a damn big fly factory”, as co-founder David Drew puts it. The plant is scheduled to open next year and will produce 24 tons of larvae and 7 tons of maggot meal, or MagMeal, every day. Agriprotein plans to create nine more of these factories across the globe by 2020. Enviroflight (in the US), Ynsect (in France) and Protix (in the Netherlands) have also built large insect production facilities.
Representatives of many of these enterprises have made their way to Ede, carting along product samples or prototypes to display in a large foyer at the conference hotel. Delegates can ponder whether they prefer miso made with grasshoppers or silkworms, buy a plastic container of freeze-dried mealworms for €3.50 (£2.80), or lean against the enormous sacks of black soldier fly meal stacked up at the back of the room. These businesses may one day be competitors, but for now, they’ve got an industry to build, so the atmosphere is one of camaraderie and collaboration. They trade strategies and suggestions and commiserate about the obstacles ahead.
Many companies have arrived at the same conclusion as Six Foods – that it’s best not to confront consumers with insects too directly. That often involves processing and disguising the bugs, but it can also mean doing a little clever rebranding. Take waxworms, which live in beehives and eat honeycomb. By all accounts, they’re delicious: buttery, with a taste reminiscent of bacon. But the word “worm” can be a deal-breaker for diners, so Six Foods has re-christened them “honey bugs”. Ento calls them “honeycomb caterpillars”. Florence Dunkel, an entomologist at Montana State University, recommends borrowing from their scientific name, Galleria mellonella. “We say ‘We’re having Galleria quesadilla’, and it sounds much more exotic,” she tells the audience at one presentation. “It’s very romantic.” Dunkel also suggests using the euphemism “land shrimp” for insects.
The arthropod advocates know they have some convincing to do, but they are optimistic. In consumer surveys, many people report that they’d be willing to try insects, at least in some form. When Rozin conducted an online survey of several hundred Americans, he found that 75% said they’d rather eat an insect than raw goat meat, and 53% reported that they’d rather eat an insect than endure 10 minutes of moderate pain. “So this isn’t the worst thing in the world,” Rozin reassures the audience during his talk. “It’s just something you’d rather not do.”
The conference-goers seem to find comfort in telling and retelling the story of sushi – a strange, foreign dish that showcased raw fish and yet became not just acceptable but trendy in the west. “There’s no question that food preferences can change,” says D’Asaro. “I mean, there are 450 people here who believe in the future of insects as food. So I think it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now, and I would certainly – I mean, I am putting my money on it.”
The entomophiles are not just putting their money where their mouths are – they’re putting their mouths where their money is. There is audible excitement on the first morning of the conference when the organiser, entomologist Arnold van Huis, announces that each day’s lunch will feature at least one insect snack. That day, it’s miniature quiches sprinkled liberally with dried mealworms. They don’t look particularly appetising, but I’m in the company of true believers. It’s easy to get caught up in their passion and energy. I put a mealworm quiche on my plate. I don’t want to miss my chance to help save the world.
T he one dissenting note at the conference comes from Adrian Charlton. A biochemist at the Food & Environment Research Agency in the UK, Charlton is one of the scientists working on PROteINSECT, a €3m (£2.4m), EU-funded project that launched last year. The team, which includes researchers in seven countries and three continents, is trying to nail down the nitty-gritty details involved in turning insects into animal feed. The scientists are testing different methods of fly farming, conducting livestock feeding trials and analysing the environmental impact of insect factories, among other things. Charlton is leading the safety and quality analyses, and he’s here at the conference the day after we’ve all chowed down on mealworm quiche, to warn us that “not all insects are safe”.
Whether they’re used in animal feed or human food, insects present a slew of hazards. Bugs scooped up from the wild may be covered in pesticides or other contaminants, but even breeding insects in industrial, indoor facilities won’t necessarily eliminate the risks. One of the benefits of insects is that they can be fed on waste, but food scraps may be contaminated with fungus, some species of which produce nasty toxins. Animal manure may contain disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter, as well as antibiotics or other drugs given to livestock. Heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead can also accumulate in animal manure and agricultural waste – and then in the bodies of insects that feed on it. “We know in some cases insects will tolerate much higher levels of metals than mammals,” Charlton warns. “And therefore that’s a risk in terms of using them as a feedstock.”
In his initial tests, Charlton has found that some flies raised on animal and food waste have cadmium levels higher than limits set by the EU. Other researchers have also documented elevated levels of lead in dried grasshoppers from Mexico and dangerous levels of fungal toxins in the mopane caterpillar, which is eaten in many parts of Africa. “This is not all speculation,” says Charlton.
Insects also have their own pathogens: viruses, bacteria and fungi that colonise their tiny bodies. Although there’s still a lot to learn about these microorganisms, some could potentially pose risks to humans or livestock. Then there’s the allergy question. Insects are arthropods, and several other arthropods – most notably shrimp – can cause severe allergic reactions. One of the major triggers of shellfish allergies is a muscle protein called tropomyosin. The protein sequence of tropomyosin is similar in insects and crustaceans, and people with shellfish allergies may also react to insects.
Grasshoppers on a barbecue stick. Photograph: Gustav Almestål
That’s not to say that all these potential dangers will turn out to be actual dangers, or that they’re insurmountable. But right now, there’s very little data. “We need to know a lot more, really – that’s the bottom line,” says Charlton.
Given that, Charlton says, it makes sense for legislators to take a cautious approach. In the EU, companies that want to introduce edible insect products may be subject to the Novel Food Regulation, which applies to any food that wasn’t “used for human consumption to a significant degree” in Europe before the law was enacted in 1997. Any of these “novel” products or ingredients must undergo a safety assessment, and then be approved by food safety regulators, before going on the market. The situation in the US is similar: companies can sell whole insects as long as they are clean, wholesome and raised specifically for human consumption, but if they want to use a novel insect-derived product, such as protein powder, as an additive, they may need to petition the Food and Drug Administration to designate the ingredient as safe.
The Novel Food Regulation sounds simple, but in practice it has caused confusion. Owing to what many people consider to be an oversight, the law applies to ingredients that are “isolated” from animals but not animals that are eaten whole. And yet, some national food authorities have rejected whole-insect products, and future versions of the Novel Food Regulation may include them. Meanwhile, some companies are selling products that may be forbidden under the current regulation, without any apparent consequence. These and other ambiguities can leave companies in an uncomfortable grey area, unsure of whether they are allowed to sell their products.
Getting insects into animal feed could prove even tougher than getting them on to people’s plates, as a result of rules enacted in response to the outbreak of mad cow disease in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. The disease spread as the remains of sick animals were processed into feed for other livestock. To combat this problem, the EU instituted a series of policies, including a ban on feeding “processed animal proteins” to farmed animals. There are some exceptions for fishmeal and fish feed, but as the law stands, insect meal is a non-starter. Another problem for would-be insect farmers is a law that forbids “farmed animals” – a category that includes insects raised for food and feed – from being reared on certain kinds of waste, including manure.
The restrictive (and sometimes confusing and contradictory) regulatory system is the target of particular scorn at the conference, where the heads of various insect enterprises point out that these policies were developed before bugs were on the agricultural and gastronomic radar.
“Insects will be allowed to be fed to chickens in Europe,” David Drew, of AgriProtein, says in his talk. “It’s just a mistake – let’s be honest … At the time the legislation was created, there was no insect feed. Otherwise, it would be there in the legislation. It’s absolutely absurd that the natural food of chickens, which is maggots … is banned, and fish, which they’ve never eaten, is permitted.”
The audience breaks into a hearty, spontaneous round of applause, but Drew isn’t done yet. “It’s a bit like banning giant pandas from eating bamboo. It just ain’t right.”
But while the entrepreneurs seem to be growing restless – some have brought products to display at the conference that they’re not yet allowed to sell – some scientists are worried about moving too fast. “Until we know more, then the legislation shouldn’t change to allow insects into the food chain,” says Charlton.
When I catch up with him a few weeks later, Charlton makes clear that he’s not trying to shut the bug businesses down or keep insects out of animal feed forever. “I actually do think that this is a good idea,” he says. “It just needs the data behind it to prove that.”
I ask him whether I was foolish to eat the mealworm quiche. “It depends how cautious you are and how adventurous you feel,” he says diplomatically. “I guess I’m more of an evidence-based person.”
E ating the mealworm quiche had given me a good sense of what the insectivores are up against. The dish tasted fine – the mealworms had a slightly nutty, toasted flavour and gave the quiche an extra crunch – but it still made my stomach turn. After taking a few bites, I found myself pushing the quiche to the side of my plate. I pulled a piece of bread off the top of my insect-free cheese sandwich and used it to cover the quiche I didn’t want to look at the worms while I was eating the rest of my lunch.
But I’d survived the quiche, as well as the maggot fat at that first tasting by the Nordic Food Lab. Over my week in the Netherlands, I’d tried other delicacies: locust tabbouleh chicken crumbed in buffalo worms bee larvae ceviche tempura-fried crickets rose beetle larvae stew soy grasshoppers chargrilled sticky rice with wasp paste buffalo worm, avocado and tomato salad a cucumber, basil and locust drink and a fermented, Asian-style dipping sauce made from grasshoppers and mealworms.
Although I found many of the dishes to be psychologically difficult to stomach, none of them had tasted bad. The insects themselves were quite bland. The crickets had a slightly fishy aftertaste and the buffalo worms a metallic one. The rose beetle larvae were vaguely reminiscent of smoked ham. Mostly, the insects were carriers for whatever other, stronger flavours were in a dish.
In fact, the Nordic Food Lab’s Josh Evans and Ben Reade declared their tasting a failure, largely because the star ingredients – which came from Dutch insect farms – were nearly flavourless. The insects were a far cry from the delectable specimens they’d caught in the wild during their research trips around the world.
Over the past year, they’ve been to five continents and discovered an astonishing world of insect flavour. In Australia, they savoured the sweet-and-sour tang of honey ants and sampled scale insect larvae, which taste like fresh mushrooms and pop softly in the mouth. In Uganda, they feasted on queen termites, which are fatty – like little sausages – with the texture of sweetbreads, the fragrance of foie gras and a delicate sweetness. In Mexico, they enjoyed escamoles, desert ant eggs with a creamy mouthfeel and the aroma of blue cheese.
Rather than carting crates of escamoles to Copenhagen, the Food Lab hopes to identify European insects that are similar to the ones tasted further afield or can be prepared in similar ways. (One pro tip, which they picked up from a farmer in southwestern Uganda: crickets should rest for a few minutes after being cooked.) The goal isn’t necessarily to get everyone eating insects. Rather, it’s to introduce diners to delicious, under-used ingredients, expand food choice and encourage people to embrace the edible resources that surround them.
But Evans and Reade object to large-scale insect farming. It’s partly on gastronomic grounds – in their experience, farmed, freeze-dried insects taste “like cardboard”, Evans says – but also on ecological ones, worrying that we may end up merely replacing one industrial protein-production system with another.
“Insects themselves could be the most sustainable thing, they could have no carbon footprint at all,” Reade says. “But then if we insisted on freeze-drying them all using huge amounts of energy and sending them halfway across the planet for energy-consuming protein extraction and then decided to sell that protein in another part of the world shaped like chicken breasts in a little plastic packet – well, there’s nothing sustainable about that at all.”
Indeed, just because insects have a killer feed-to-food conversion ratio doesn’t mean that anything we do with or to insects will be eco-friendly. Bart Muys, an ecologist at KU Leuven in Belgium, tells the conference-goers that although insects can be reared on relatively tiny plots of land, producing insect meal requires significantly more energy than fishmeal or soymeal does, largely because the bugs need to be raised in warm conditions. The environmental impact of each production system will vary, depending on countless factors, including location, species and feedstock. The golden rule, Muys warns, is “Do not claim before you know.”
Although everyone at the conference is dreaming of a future with more insects on the menu, the exact natures of those dreams vary widely – from the chefs who want to showcase insects’ unique flavours at the world’s best restaurants to the businessmen who believe the best use of bugs is as a feedstock to help lower the price of beef. There’s no central authority dictating the next steps although there’s talk of gathering for another conference in two or three years, all the experts and advocates will pursue their own priorities in the meantime.
The edible insect industry is still in its infancy, and it’s too soon to tell how it will develop or whether it will succeed. Will we accept insect flour in our snack foods? Can we be persuaded to make waxworm tacos in our own kitchens? Will crickets become a grocery store staple? And will any of this add up to real change? Many other innovations are also being hailed as the future of food, from fake chicken to 3D printing and from algae to lab-grown meat. Whether any of them, including insects, will turn out to make a real contribution to food security and sustainability remains an open question.
For their part, Evans and Reade reject the notion that insects will be some sort of silver bullet. Bugs, they say, will only be a real part of the solution if we are careful and thoughtful about how we integrate them into the food system. In their eyes, entomophagy is about more than merely getting a precise amount of protein on a plate – it’s about making sure everyone on the planet has access to food that is affordable, healthy, diverse, environmentally sound and, yes, delicious. “Insects can be a vehicle for something,” Reade says. “But it has to be recognised that it’s not the insects themselves that are going to make it sustainable. It’s the humans.”
This is an edited version of an article that was first published in Mosaic. It is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.
Potential Risks of Dried Mango
Dried mango may contain high levels of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, but it’s also high in calories and sugar. Mango can be easy to overeat, so keep these considerations in mind before you enjoy this treat:
Mango peel contains high levels of a substance called urushiol. This compound is also found in cashews, pistachios, and poison ivy. In fresh mangoes, its highest concentration is contained within the skin.
If you use fresh fruit to prepare dried mango, use caution when it comes into contact with your skin. If you’re allergic, Exposure can cause rashes similar to those from poison ivy. Since dried mangoes don’t include the skin, simply eating them will not cause an allergic reaction from urushiol.
However, eating dried mango can cause side effects like red eyes and runny nose if you’re allergic to sulfites. You can avoid this by choosing unsulfured (or sulfite-free) dried fruit.
High in Sugar
Dried mango is high in sugar, even compared to its fresh form. Some prepackaged types further increase the sweetness with additional sugar.
Unsweetened dried mango is better than crystallized or sweetened varieties. Still, even small amounts of any type of dried mango may lead to significant increases in blood glucose levels. If you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or managing the condition, consider substituting dried mangos for limited quantities of the fresh version. One serving of ½ cup of fresh mango contains about half the sugar of its dried companion.
High in Calories
Just four pieces of unsweetened dried mango contain 120 calories. Even with its high levels of vitamins and minerals, it may not be worth the extra calories if you’re trying to lose weight. Other low-calorie fruits, like fresh apples and berries, may be a better option for satisfying your sweet tooth.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology: “Can Reaction to Poison Ivy Cause Mango Allergy?”
Antioxidants: “Nutrients for Prevention of Macular Degeneration and Eye-Related Diseases.”
Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine: “Mango Dermatitis After Urushiol Sensitization.”
Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: “Major Mango Polyphenols and Their Potential Significance to Human Health.”
ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Mango, fresh, slices.”
ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Mango, just, unsulfured, unsweetened, dried, Trader Joe’s.”
Journal of the American College of Nutrition: “Dried fruits: xcellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants.”
National Cancer Institute: “Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention.”
Nutrition and Metabolic Insights: “Acute Freeze-Dried Mango Consumption With a High-Fat Meal has Minimal Effects on Postprandial Metabolism, Inflammation and Antioxidant Enzymes”
Pharmacognosy Reviews: “Mangifera Indica (Mango).”
Scientific African: “Effect of pretreatments prior to drying on antioxidant properties of dried mango slices.”
What We Can Do In Our Kitchens, Communities, and Backyards
The USDA and EPA have collaborated on establishing a helpful six-component food waste recovery hierarchy, with the most preferred option at the top and least preferred at the bottom. Three of them are especially helpful for us at the residential level.
Source Reduction is step one, stopping food waste before it happens. It is the number one thing we can do to help abate food waste. Simple practices include:
- Eating what we have. We simply look inside our fridge and pantry and see what most needs to be eaten and plan a meal based on that. If unsure what to make, we can check the index of a favorite cookbook or do an internet search with the terms. For example, I have those squash from last summer, the sweet potato, and also some greens that all need to be eaten. Pasta sounds good tonight so I did an internet search—"squash, sweet potato, greens, pasta"—and I found a recipe that I'll use as my inspiration.
- Better planning. The same thing above applies to menu planning and shopping. We look in our refrigerator and pantry first and then plan menus and shopping based on what needs to be eaten. Also necessary is making a list and doing our best to stick to it. And resisting buying more than we need, especially produce, even if it's those avocados that are on sale.
- Shopping for just a few main meals at a time—especially when it comes to buying perishables. Too often, there are more leftovers than expected, or our neighbors invite us to that impromptu potluck, or we impulsively grab takeout on our way home. Planning for fewer meals helps avoid over-shopping and ending up with highly perishable items we can't get to. Alternatively, keeping carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes on hand—vegetables that keep longer than many other items—allows for quickly transforming some basics into a wide variety of dishes when the menu plan runs dry before the next shopping date.
- Being resourceful. If we have most items needed for that pizza but don't have any sauce, we can use pasta sauce. Or grind up whatever greens we may have on hand with some garlic, nuts, and olive oil for some quick pesto magic. If we don't have a recipe ingredient, we can ask if it's essential, and if so, check online for a substitute. For example, if you're missing an egg for that birthday cake, you can substitute two tablespoons of mayonnaise.
- Making friends with the freezer. Yes, the freezer is a great place for the chili that we tire of by the third night, but it's also a great place to keep other things. For example, we can keep a container for stale or excess bread (including the heels) for when we need to make croutons, breadcrumbs, soups, or one of my favorite "clean out the fridge" kind of recipes—vegetable strata. Bread is only one thing, but speaking of it reminds me of one enterprising food waste warrior who is turning stale and excess bread into beer!
- Labeling the food. We all think we'll remember, right? But if it's not marked, there's a good chance that it'll get tossed (even though it might still be good) when we can't recall what it is or when we made it. I now mark containers with wine glass markers before putting them into the fridge or freezer. It's also a good idea to keep a memo pad attached to the fridge, making a note of what went in and when.
- Trusting our senses. Studies find that a good portion of the food we toss is thrown out too soon because we misunderstand dates. Until I set out to educate myself about food waste, I had the misconception that food might make me or my family sick if it was outdated. But then I learned that, aside from infant formula, the dates marked on the foods we buy—"best if used by," "sell by," "best before," "enjoy by," and expiration dates—are not only confusing but not yet federally regulated. Currently, these recommendations are merely suggestions about when a product is at its freshest. I also learned that eating food that is a little past its prime doesn't typically make us sick. Food-borne illness comes from pathogens and contamination, not from the natural decaying process. By learning to trust our sense of sight, smell, touch, and taste, we can avoid tossing food that is still safe to eat. Save the Food is one place to start when looking for food-saving tips and recipes for using foods that are past their prime. I just left this writing briefly to whip up a delicious chocolate mousse using overripe avocados (from that sale I warned against) that were on my counter.
- Embracing ugly produce. Tons of perfectly good produce goes uneaten every year in the U.S. simply because of unrealistic retail and consumer expectations regarding appearance. Many non-profit organizations and for-profit entrepreneurs are now working to save this food from rotting in the fields or getting sent to the landfill. Households can also help by requesting that their local grocer stock imperfect produce, and then they can support this request with their dollars. I have been guilty of sorting through produce to find perfect specimens, but after learning how much waste this creates and knowing that appearance does not affect taste or nutritional value, I am much more conscious about showing more love to the ugly produce. (Marketing research has shown that using the term "ugly" helps imperfect produce receive a little more positive attention!)
When we master all of these things and learn to work with and eat what we have, we'll not only save a lot of money and trips to the grocery store, we'll also be helping to save the planet and the resources necessary to help feed the hungry.
Feeding the Hungry is step two on the hierarchy and involves the recovery of good food from all sectors and sharing it with food-insecure populations. Exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid! Not that I would be able to take my actual plate to a nearby food pantry now, but numerous organizations, including K-12 schools and universities, are doing extraordinary work to help recover good food from all sectors—farms, production facilities, institutions, restaurants, retail stores, dumpsters, and our homes—to those who need it, rather than it being sent to the landfill.
Also, food-sharing apps are helping recover food from all sectors, including households with excess food in their kitchens and gardens. These apps currently appear to be most popular and successful across the pond, but technologies that help us share excess food are promising. If you want to share your excess, and organizations and apps aren't currently functional in your community, you can check with your local food pantries and shelters to see if they will take your excess perishables and garden produce.
Composting is step five, recognizing that food scraps and food waste are invaluable resources in the food cycle. Composting can be done in a variety of ways at one's residence, through municipal programs offered in some communities, or through hiring a private food scrap hauler who will come by regularly for a very reasonable fee and collect scraps and get them to a nearby farm or facility that can process them into feed or compost.
I've only recently begun educating myself more fully on the stupendous ramifications of wasting food, but I have been composting for a while and am passionate about the "dig and drop" method, which is a variation of trench composting, also known as the "Lazy Man's Method." (My parents always did accuse me of being lazy.) Every day, I drop my kitchen scraps into a large enamelware canning pot (though anything with a lid will work) that sits outside my back door, and then once every week or two, I simply dig a hole and drop the contents of the pot into the hole, layering in "browns" (leaves, sawdust, paper, tissues, egg cartons, torn up cardboard) as I go. I next back-fill with six to eight inches of dirt and then tamp lightly, leaving the shovel where I left off to mark it for the next dig.
When the garden is bare in the winter, I crisscross back and forth across the garden space. In the summer, I dig in the rows between plants. I'm amazed at how quickly the scraps degrade, all with minimal effort from me. Worms have become plentiful, the clay and granite subsoil is improving dramatically, plantings (present or future) benefit from the organic nutrition, and I'm not sending any food to the landfill! There are no smells with this method, no turning a pile or bin, no critter problems, and nothing has yet to bother my pot that I collect the compost in (even when I used to keep it on the front porch, 20 feet from our neighborhood bears, when I paid to have it picked up).
The last "option" in the Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy is the landfill—an option of last resort that signifies we have failed the first five preferred options (which also include feeding animals, and turning wasted food into biofuel and bioproducts).
In the U.S., six states and several municipalities have already passed laws to keep food out of landfills. Eventually—much like widespread recycling of metals, paper, cardboard, and glass—this will likely become the norm rather than the exception.
Vermont's statewide food scrap ban went into effect just last year. Their program stands out as an excellent model regarding outreach, education, and support, with an easy to navigate website chock-full of information for helping residents comply with the new law. Local governments must provide food scrap collection to businesses, institutions, and apartments with four or more units. Beyond that, residents may ask their local solid waste hauler if they collect food scraps, or they can take them for free to a local drop-off facility, or they can pay a private food scrap hauler to pick them up. Private food scrap hauling has grown from only 20 haulers statewide when the law went into effect to more than 50 now.
Vermont's new law has been a score for farmers, the planet, and the hungry. Food scraps kept out of the landfill end up at area farms and are either used for animal feed or they are composted to help in the generation of new food, greenhouse gasses are being minimized, and food donation (feeding hungry people) in the state has nearly tripled since the law was passed.
5 ways indigenous peoples are helping the world achieve #ZeroHunger
Indigenous peoples are stewards of natural resources, biodiversity and nutritious native foods. They are key partners in finding solutions to climate change and reshaping our food systems. @FAO/Francesco Farnè
Constituting only 5 percent of the world population, indigenous peoples are nevertheless vital stewards of the environment. 28 percent of the world’s land surface, including some of the most ecologically intact and biodiverse forest areas, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities. These forests are crucial for curbing gas emissions and maintaining biodiversity. Indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, and their associated food systems are remarkably climate-resilient and well-adapted to the environment.
Indigenous peoples’ ways of life and their livelihoods can teach us a lot about preserving natural resources, sourcing and growing food in sustainable ways and living in harmony with nature. Mobilizing the expertise that originates from this heritage and these historical legacies is important for addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture today and in the future.
Here are 5 of the many ways in which indigenous peoples are helping the world combat climate change:
1. Their traditional agricultural practices are better adapted to a changing climate
Throughout the centuries, indigenous peoples have developed agricultural techniques that are adapted to extreme environments, like the high altitudes of the Andes or the dry grasslands of Kenya. Their time-tested techniques, such as terracing to prevent soil erosion or floating gardens to make use of flooded fields, are well suited for the increasingly extreme weather events and temperature changes brought on by climate change.
2. They conserve and restore forests and natural resources
Indigenous peoples see themselves as connected to nature and as part of the same system as the environment in which they live.
They have adapted their lifestyles to fit into and respect their environments. In mountains, indigenous peoples’ landscape management systems preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and decrease the risk of disasters. In rangelands, indigenous pastoralist communities manage cattle grazing and cropping in sustainable ways that preserve rangeland biodiversity. In the Amazon, ecosystems’ biodiversity improve when indigenous people inhabit them.
3. Their foods and traditions can help expand and diversify diets
The world currently relies very heavily on a small set of staple crops. Just five crops – rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum – provide about 50 percent of our dietary energy needs. Replete with nutritious, native crops like quinoa and oca, the food systems of indigenous peoples can help the rest of humanity expand its narrow food base to incorporate herbs, shrubs, grains, fruits, animals and fish that might not be well known or used in other parts of the world.
4. They cultivate indigenous crops that are more resilient to climate change
Because many indigenous peoples live in extreme environments, they have chosen crops that have also adapted to such conditions. Indigenous peoples often grow an array of native species of crops and a multitude of varieties that are better adapted to local contexts and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding or other extreme conditions. Used more widely in farming, these crops could help build the resilience of farms now facing a changing, more extreme climate.
5. They oversee a large part of the world’s biodiversity
Traditional indigenous territories encompass 28 percent of the world’s land surface, but host 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Preserving biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. The genetic pool for plants and animal species is found in all terrestrial biomes, as well as rivers, lakes and marine areas. Living naturally sustainable lives, indigenous peoples preserve these spaces, helping to uphold the biodiversity of the plants and animals in nature.
FAO considers indigenous peoples as invaluable partners in providing solutions to climate change and creating a #ZeroHunger world. We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food security and nutrition without seeking help from and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
Scaling up innovations
Aquatic foods are particularly important from conception to a child’s second birthday. Not consuming enough micronutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12 increases the risk of illness, maternal and infant mortality, stunting and poor cognitive performance. Undernutrition accounts for up to 45% of all preventable child deaths.
In 2010, Thilsted joined the international research institute WorldFish. She returned to Bangladesh to work at scaling up “nutrition-sensitive approaches” to fish production, building on insights from her earlier research.
Her previous work showed that small fish like mola grow well in farm ponds alongside larger fish such as carp. Simple changes to the way small fish were harvested from ponds, such as using different types of fishing net, increased women’s role in their production. Raising small fish in this way proved be a highly cost-effective way of reducing the burden of malnutrition.
Thilsted also began investigating ways to deliver micronutrients to mothers and children using fish-based products such as powders, chutneys and wafers as a culturally appropriate way to enhance their diets. WorldFish has promoted these innovations widely to countries including Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Zambia.
Shakuntala Thilsted, on right, in Bangladesh. Flo Lim/WorldFish, CC BY-ND
Frozen Food Is Not The Solution
Prepared survivalists who think they’ll be sitting pretty while their neighbors starve because they have a freezer stocked with game, cheese, and food are going to be bitterly disappointed if the power goes out for periods of time.
However, if they’re trying to figure out whether to use that generator to keep their refrigerator and microwave on to defrost food, instead of keeping warm, they’ll soon figure out that keeping warm and dry will take precedence.
Building a pantry that includes the best survival foods is not the same as randomly hoarding food.
It requires a thoughtful approach. It’s key to surviving when modern conveniences are stripped away and you’re left on your own.
Remember: Prepare, Adapt and Overcome,
“Just In Case” Jack
P.s. More people than I can count have asked me for this exact road map.
It shows you just how easy it is to achieve a REASSURING Level Of Preparedness.
By following these10 simple steps you'll be way more prepared than the rest of the FRAGILE MASSES out there!
No long-winded far fetched stories, just straight talk from a guy who did it.
Oil-free Wheat Khakra
“When it comes to comfort foods, our list is nearly endless isn’t it? Khakra, for eg, it reminds me of my days in the US. The best part about this recipe – it’s oil free, needs very less ingredients and above all, long shelf life. Toh aaj chai ke saath khakra ho jaaye?, he said.”
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 people
2 cups – Wheat flour + 1 cup for dusting
1 tbsp – Kasuri methi (optional)
Salt to taste
*In a clean bowl, add wheat flour, salt and kasuri methi. Mix together.
*Add water as required and knead a soft dough.
*Once the dough is prepared, place the dough in a bowl and set aside for 15-20 minutes> keep it covered with a muslin cloth.
*Divide the prepared dough into equal portions of lemon sized balls.
*Roll these balls into a thin disc while dusting whole wheat flour (as required), to avoid the dough from sticking to the surface.
*Heat a thick tawa on low flame. Put the rolled dough on it and roast for 20-30 seconds on 1 side then flip it over.
*Roast it by pressing it with a folded cloth to make sure no bubbles appear.
*Flip it over and continue roasting on low heat till it becomes crisp and forms brown spots.
*Set aside to cool to room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
*Serve with tea.