Overview of children’s acceptance of edible insects

A recent study on the acceptance of insect food products published in Food and quality preference found that certain types of insect products were more popular with Danish children.

Study: Acceptance of insect-based foods in Danish children: effects of information provision, food neophobia, disgust sensitivity, and species on willingness to try. Image credit: Charoen Krung Photography/Shutterstock

Background

The growing demand for animal protein has shifted attention to alternative sources of protein other than conventional animal meat. Insects have been used as a source of nutrition since ancient times. Edible insects are good sources of protein and serve as an alternative to conventional meat. Disgust and neophobia are considered major barriers to the adoption of new foods.

Factors influencing acceptance of insect foods include willingness to eat, food neophobia, disgust, sensitivity, past exposure, sensory properties of the food, and presentation of insect products. insects. Food disgust may be related to pathogen avoidance, culture-specific, or arbitrary traits. Perceived cultural indestibility is also a resilient barrier to acceptance of novel foods.

Insects are not considered edible by the majority. Nevertheless, the growing debate over the unsustainability of conventional protein sources may provide scope for introducing insect-based foods into Western diets. Benefits include environmental preservation and sustainability.

The study

This study was conducted on children and explored the effects of communicating three types of information: the taste, health and sustainability benefits of insect-based foods, on the willingness to eat foods at insect base.

The study also aimed to determine the relationship between food neophobia, disgust, and properties of insect species on insect food acceptance and to determine which types of insect-based foods were most desirable. . The study involved 181 pupils aged 9 to 13 from Danish schools.

This involved sending an online survey and lecture for students to teachers in advance. The survey consisted of three parts – a pre-exposure, during-exposure and post-exposure questionnaire.

Results

Of the 181 questionnaires submitted, 26 were disqualified. The participating pupils came from six Danish schools. Among the participants, 62 were introduced to the taste of new foods, 71 were informed about the health benefits and 48 underwent the sustainability intervention.

All but two participants were familiar with insect-based foods; in fact, 49.7% had even tasted insects. The majority showed moderate interest in trying insect-based foods before and after the intervention. These two groups included boys and girls in identical proportions.

Effect of interventions

Most participants expressed apprehension regarding the use of crickets in food. For buffalo worms, the intervention groups showed differences in keeping them as livestock. While the majority were either neutral (bordering on negative) about the use of buffalo worm in food.

Overall, the sustainability intervention appeared to give the highest scores for presenting buffalo worms as acceptable for livestock, while the health intervention conferred the lowest score. However, the taste intervention did not cause a noticeable difference in opinion. Additionally, mealworm was rated higher on both measures.

Effect of neophobia

Boys were found to be more neophilic than girls, according to the Food Neophobia Test Tool (FNTT). The FNTT did not appear to vary between populations or intervention groups; screw, children from different schools or classes. However, a strong negative correlation of FNTT scores with WTT was evident before and after the intervention.

Disgust Sensitivity Effect

The participants’ Food Disgust Scale (FDS) indicated that the participants had higher disgust sensitivity. FDS did not differ by sex and there was no variation between intervention groups. Moreover, FDS was not correlated with WTT.

The correlation of FDS with FNTT was insignificant. The whole cricket image received a lower hedonic rating than the buffalo worm. Cookies received a hedonic rating above neutral, while protein bars, crispbread, burgers and cricket flour chips did not. Falafel received the lowest rating while whole cricket had the second lowest rating.

Notably, 43 children were classified as neophilic; 89 were found to be neutral and 47 were diagnosed as neophobes. The neophobic category had a significant effect on the hedonic response, which had lower hedonic ratings than the neophilic segment.

Participants’ perceived suitability of insects as food ingredients – insects in cookies, received higher ratings, followed by chips and burgers with insects. All three of these categories were rated above neutral for suitability as foods. In contrast, protein bars, falafel, crispbread, and candy bars containing insect ingredients were rated below neutral, with falafel scoring the lowest.

Conclusion

The results provided consumers with information about edible insects in children. On average, Danish children were not afraid to try insect foods. Additionally, educating children about the benefits of insect-based foods could increase their willingness to try them.

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