Life Sciences and Healthcare

Novel food regulations permit the arrival of insect flour in Italy

Published on 22nd Jan 2024

Italy publishes four ministerial decrees regulating the labelling and sale of products using insect meal, that go further than EU requirements 
People in a meeting and close up of a gavel


On 29 December 2023, four ministerial decrees regulating the labelling and sales of insect meal in Italy (that is, cricket meal, migratory locust meal, meal worm and yellow mealworm) were published in the Official Journal. The sale of such insect meal has already been authorised by the European Union.

What is a novel food ?

Novel foods encompass a wide range of products, including new foods, foods from new sources and foods using new food production processes.

They are defined as defined as "Any food not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union before 15 May 1997, irrespective of the dates of accession of Member States to the Union", as stated in art. 3(2)(a) of Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 on novel foods.

How is a novel food authorised?

Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 governs the authorisation procedure for placing a novel food on the EU market. 

The Commission maintains a list of authorised novel foods, so each marketing authorisation involves updating this list. The procedure is initiated at the Commission's initiative or following an application by an applicant.

The Commission may request, if it considers it necessary, an opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which must be issued within nine months of the request.

The procedure ends with the adoption of an implementing act (unless the Commission decides to close it because it considers the updating of the list as unjustified).

Within seven months of the EFSA opinion – or, if none is required, within seven months of the application – the Commission must submit to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed a proposal for an implementing act authorising the placing on the EU market of the new novel food and updating the list.

The authorisation of insect meal/flour 

Between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2023, the European Commission authorised the placing on the market of four types of novel food in three different consistencies (frozen, dried and powdered), with the following implementing regulations:

  • Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), by Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1975 dated 12 November 2021;
  • Yellow mealworm  (Tenebrio molitor larvae), by Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/169 dated 8 February 2022;
  • House cricket (Acheta domesticus), by Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/188 dated 10 February 2022, as well as defatted powder by Regulation (EU) 2023/5;
  • Lesser mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus) by Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/58 dated 5 January 2023.

The Lollobrigida decrees

On 23 March 2023, Italy's minister of agriculture, food sovereignty and forestry, Francesco Lollobrigida, in agreement with the minister of enterprise and Made in Italy, and the minister of health, announced that an agreement had been reached in the State-Regions Steering Committee on the outline of four decrees aimed at introducing specific indications to be included on the label for the various types of insect meal authorised by the European Commission.

In order to help consumers distinguish between "traditional" flours and insect-based flours and to promote transparency for the purpose of consumer protection, Italy has chosen to adopt stricter rules on the labelling and selling of such foods. To this end, it had to notify the draft decrees to the European Commission under art. 45 of Regulation (EU)  1169/2011 on food labelling.

This provision requires that a Member State that deems it necessary to adopt new food information legislation must notify the Commission and the other Member States in advance of the envisaged provisions and may not adopt them until three months after notification, provided that it has not received a negative opinion from the Commission.

Given that no objection was raised by  the Commission, the four ministerial decrees on insect meal were published on 29 December 2023.

Ad hoc labels and location

The decrees provide for specific labelling and location requirements. 

The labelling of products containing insect meal must contain:

  • their respective legal names as indicated in the respective decrees;
  • any possible allergic reactions (such as allergies to crustaceans, molluscs and dust mites);
  • a statement that "The food contains [...] in partially defatted, frozen or dried/powdered form", depending on the form used, to be affixed "in the main field of vision, printed in such a way as to be easily visible and clearly legible". These particulars must be specified in such a way that they are "immediately visible to the consumer and must not in any way be hidden, obscured, restricted or separated  by other written or geographical indications or  by other interfering elements";
  • the place of origin, in the same prominent manner as the above information. 

The real innovation compared to other foodstuffs is that the products in question must be offered for sale in separate areas, duly indicated with appropriate signage.

The decrees also contain sanctions in the event of violation.

Osborne Clarke comment

The authorisation of the sale of insect meal (cricket meal, migratory locust meal, mealworm and yellow grub meal) has taken place at European level and therefore binds all Member States.

Italy has, however, chosen to introduce stricter rules regarding the information to be given to consumers, an area already regulated at European level.

The European Commission did not stand in the way of Italy's decision. Italy's approach was dictated by the strong need to encourage transparency in the sale of these products, to ensure correct and complete information to Italian consumers who are not used to consuming novel foods, and to strengthen the prevention of, and to suppress, food fraud and unfair competition.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

Connect with one of our experts

Interested in hearing more from Osborne Clarke?