Masaka, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Uganda Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has cautioned traders involved in the sale of Nsenene (edible grasshoppers) to adhere to established national standards for edible insects, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding consumer health.
The pertinent standards, Uganda Standard (US 28 EAS 39:2002) for Edible Insects, mandates Nsenene handlers to produce, prepare, and manage these insects in line with the Code of Practice for hygiene within the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
According to the standard, the maximum permissible aflatoxin content in edible insects, determined through the method outlined in US ISO 16050, should not exceed five to 10 micrograms per kilogram, depending on the specific toxic substance.
It is crucial to note that a microgram is equivalent to one millionth of a gram. UNBS has reiterated concerns regarding potential health risks associated with the consumption of improperly handled insects, especially when the prescribed standards are neglected.
Additionally, the standard dictates that edible insects must conform to the maximum limits for heavy metals as established by the CODEX Alimentarius Commission for similar commodities. This commission, tasked with implementing food standards set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization (WHO), plays a crucial role in ensuring food safety.
Under Uganda Standards, edible insects must also adhere to the maximum limits for pesticide residue and veterinary residues set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission for analogous commodities. Furthermore, these insects should be devoid of adulterants, extraneous material, objectionable odor, and should remain free from infestation and contamination by pests.
While detecting aflatoxins is challenging for the average consumer, UNBS encourages individuals to report any suspicions of contamination through their toll-free numbers (0800 133 133).
In March, UNBS, in collaboration with Makerere University School of Food Technology, Nutrition, and Bio-Systems Engineering, alongside support from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), launched the Edible Insects Standard (US 2146:2020 Edible Insects – Specification).
This standard aims to promote the safe consumption of edible insects, which are harvested, processed, and traded for consumption in Uganda. The timing of these standards coincides with the increasing demand for Nsenene in the export market, particularly among Ugandans in the diaspora.
Concerns have emerged regarding the alleged use of formalin as a preservative for edible insects, with reports suggesting the use of insecticide spray to protect highly perishable products from flies.