The Food and Drug Authority in Saudi Arabia confirmed, on Sunday, that food products containing “insect powder” will not be allowed into the Kingdom’s markets.
Speaking to the “Yahla” program, Meshaal Al-Mutairi, Executive Director of Monitoring and Risk Assessment at the authority, said, “We will not allow the entry of meat alternatives except from halal plant sources that comply with the specifications.”
The Saudi official’s comment came after questions on social media about Saudi Arabia allowing the entry of products containing “insect powder”, and in the wake of a Qatari decision to ban these products.
On Thursday, Qatar confirmed the ban on insect products in foodstuffs, after the European Union added two new products to its approved list.
Qatar’s health ministry said in a statement that the insect products did not meet “the requirements of the technical regulations for halal food”.
She added that the regulations of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the “religious opinion” of the competent authorities “prohibit eating insects or proteins and supplements extracted from them.”
Qatar said its move followed “the decision of some countries to approve the use of insects in food production”.
The Qatari statement did not mention the names of the countries, but the announcement came a week after the European Union Commission approved the use of “small mealworm larvae and domestic crickets in food,” according to “Agence France Presse.”
The EU has so far approved four insects for food in the past two years, requiring all products containing the insects to be clearly labeled.
Insects have long been a source of protein, but consumption has exploded as pressure mounts to find alternatives to meat and other foods that emit high levels of greenhouse gases.
The Saudi official spoke to the “Yahla” program about the reasons for the European Union’s resort to using “insect powder” in some food products, pointing out that they contain a “high percentage of protein.”
According to him, 35 to 60 percent of the insect’s weight is “protein”.
What is the relationship of Islamic law?
In his speech, the Saudi official affirmed that the authority follows up on the conformity of any food product to “Islamic law,” and said, “So far, we have not received a request to use insect powder in food products.”
Experts say that there is no clear ruling in Islamic law regarding whether insects can be eaten, and most of them believe that eating locusts is “halal”, as stated in the Qur’an, according to “Agence France Presse”.
But many Islamic scholars reject other insects because they are “considered unclean,” according to the agency.