Mealworm-based pet food ingredients offer a safe option for a healthy canine diet

Rearing & Safety
June 14, 2024

At Sprÿng powered by Ynsect, we believe that pet-owners should be able to have complete confidence that the food they give their companion animals is of the highest possible quality – in particular, that it is safe. We have previously reported  that our mealworm-based dry petfood ingredient, Protein70, is well within regulatory limits for contaminants[1]. In this article we report that the same is true for our wet protein ingredient,WetPro15. Furthermore, we share results from a new study that has shown that dogs fed a diet containing our Protein70 ingredient maintain ideal health parameters over a six-month maintenance trial.


 WetPro15, like Protein70, is well within regulatory requirements

At the end of the breeding stage, the healthy mealworms are processed into our Protein70and WetPro15 protein ingredients. We now have data that show that our wet protein ingredient, WetPro15, is as low in potential contaminants as Protein70:

- Mycotoxins: Directive 2002/32/EC specifies a threshold of 20 ug/kg for Aflatoxin B1; likeProtein70, WetPro15 contains less than 0.1 ug/kg of this mycotoxin. In keeping with our own internal standards, we have additionally measured the quantities of other mycotoxins (OchratoxinA, Deoxynivalenol, Aflatoxins B2, G1 and G2),for which no regulatory thresholds have been defined, and found them to bepresent in similarly very low concentrations.

- Heavy metals: thresholds for lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury are specified by Directive2002/32/EC. In every case, WetPro15 contains only a small fraction of the allowable threshold concentration: for mercury, that fraction is less thanone-tenth; for cadmium and arsenic, approximately one-hundredth; and for lead,less than one-thousandth.

- Pesticides: Both our products have been tested for the presence of more than 250 different pesticides, whose acceptable thresholds are specified by Regulation EC 396/2005. In every test to date, the concentration of pesticide has been too low to be detected by the equipment.

Mealwormfarming is a clean process

The fact that both our protein ingredients contain such low quantities of potential contaminants is a reflection of the health of the mealworms that we breed in our vertical farms at Amiens and Dole. This is facilitated by the fact that a mealworm farm is an indoor space, in which conditions can be carefully and precisely controlled, hence limiting contamination. The feedstock we supply our mealworms is of course already very low in heavy metals, mycotoxins and pesticides (in adherence with Directive 2002/32/CE); this feedstock, a dry vegetal substrate, also serves as the mealworms’ habitat.

The fact that the substrateis dry is an advantage in that it limits the potential for development of microbiological contaminants, and an internal sanitary control plan specifies additional thresholds for foreign objects, microbiological species, and living insects in this substrate. We monitor the mealworms at each stage of their lifecycle to ensure they are healthy and growing well. All of this helps to ensure that our mealworms — the raw material for our protein ingredients — are of such high quality.

Protein70is part of a healthy canine diet

So, at the point at which our protein ingredients leave our factory gate, we can be confident that they are high quality products that adhere to all safety regulations. However,this is only the first step: the proof is in the kibble, so to speak. In ordert o verify that pet foods containing Protein70 contribute to a healthy canine diet, we have carried out a six-month safety study of adult dogs — the first ever long study of dogs fed a mealworm-based diet.

Healthy dogs were fed either a test diet in which the protein source was defatted mealworm (our Protein70), or a control diet in which the protein source was poultry meal. The animals’ physical and biochemical parameters were monitored throughout the six-month period of the trial.

Theresults confirm both the safety and palatability of the ingredient

First, there was no difference in food consumption between the groups — suggesting that themealworm-based food was equally appetizing to the dogs. Throughout the trial, alldogs maintained an ideal body condition score of 3 on a 5-point scale (in which1 indicates under-nourished and 5 overweight); no dog showed any significant weight gain or weight loss. Furthermore, all dogs began and ended the study with either satisfactory or good hair coats. Another result that will likely be particularly reassuring to pet owners is that the dogs’ stool quality alsoscored an ideal score of 3 — “moist and formed” — on a 5-point scale in which 1 would indicate diarrhea and 5 a very hard stool.

Analyses of blood and serum chemistry revealed that there were no significant changes inlevels of liver enzymes, glucose, minerals, lipids and blood cells. Fecal samples were collected at the start and end of the study and examined formicrobiota populations, revealing no difference in bacterial diversity after the experimental period. This indicates that a diet including mealworm meal can help maintain a stable gastrointestinal microbiota. Furthermore, the digestibility of the test diet was shown to be well within the range recommended by AAFCO and FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines, in which protein, fatand caloric digestibility are all above 80%.

Pet food manufacturers can therefore be confident that in choosing to use Sprÿng’s mealworm-based protein ingredients, they are in no way compromising the safety and quality oftheir product. On the contrary, both our ingredients have an extremely attractive safety profile and our wet protein ingredient, WetPro15, is just aslow in potential contaminants as our dry insect meal. Moreover, there is now hard evidence to show that a diet including Protein70 is both palatable toour canine companions, and can help maintain their health over a long trial.


About the author
Benedicte Lorette
Benedicte Lorette
PhD, R&D Director

Bénédicte Lorrette is Animal Nutrition & Health R&D Director at Ynsect. She joined Ynsect more than 5 years ago as a researcher specialized in insect product analysis and characterization. Today, in this role, Bénédicte is responsible for leading research and development programs to deepen the knowledge of current insect products and to adapt them to the different and the new animal markets for insects (aquaculture, petfood, swine and poultry). Bénédicte’s scientific expertise and knowledge of Ynsect’s ingredients and processes also enables her to provide support to the business development, regulatory and intellectual property teams. Prior to joining Ynsect, Bénédicte worked in various research and technical roles with public, academic and private companies. Bénédicte holds an Engineer diploma of Food Science and a Master of Science in Food Science and Biotechnology from ENSAIA, Nancy (Lorraine University), followed by a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Avignon University.

Are mealworm-based diets an option for pets with food sensitivities?
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