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SENS Bar, Part 2

As an insect-eating enthusiast, I’m always keen to try new products and to share them with friends. For that reason, I was excited to try the new SENS bars, which are made using cricket flour.

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I received four different flavoured bars in the post: two protein bars and two energy bars. They were professionally packaged and attractive looking and came with a couple of cool stickers.

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Here are some key facts about the bars:

  • The crickets in Sens bars are dried and milled, making them into a flour that is not visible in the finished bar
  • Each protein bar contains about 132 crickets, and each energy bar contains about 55
  • The bars have a shelf life of 9 months and don’t need refrigerating

SENS Energy Bars

Sens energy bar infographic

Dark chocolate and orange

sens dark chocolate orange ingredients

Sense dark chocolate orange nutrition

 Pineapple and coconut

Sens pineapple and coconut ingredients

Sense pineapple and coconut nutrition

 Sens protein bars

Sens Bar infographic

Peanut butter and cinnamon

Sens peanut butter bar ingredients

peanut butter and cinnamon Sens protein bar

 dark chocolate and sesame

Sens Dark Chocolate sesame bar ingredients

Sens dark chocolate sesame bar nutrition
Some pros and cons of cricket bars:

  • They are portable and don’t need to be refrigerated
  • They are easy to share
  • They are recognisable food products, with detailed nutritional information
  • They don’t need cooking or heating
  • Each bar is quite high in calories (204 – 321), so would suit those with active lifestyles, who need an energy or protein boost

The motivation behind Sens is to make insect eating the new normal. They say their products help people to increase their protein intake without adding too much sugar or carbs. The benefit of using insect ingredients is due to their sustainability and cruelty-free farming. Since the bars are high in protein and energy, they are aimed at those who need to snack on-the-go, before or after a workout, or during a hectic day at work.
I asked Sens about their future plans and they said they hope to start selling bars at fitness centres in the future, as well as considering new products, such as bread enriched with cricket flour.

You can find out more about Sens bar and try some yourself by visiting https://www.sensbar.com/en/shop-now A sample pack containing all four flavours will cost £9.99, and is shipped to addresses in the EU free of charge. Individual bars can be purchased from £2.14 per protein bar and £1.70 per energy bar. Sens hope to begin selling bars at fitness centre in the future.

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Eating the new SENS Bar

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of receiving some samples of the new SENS bars in the post. A SENS spokesperson told me their aim is to make insect eating “the new normal”, so they have created tasty protein and energy bars that use cricket flour as the key ingredient. Rather than eat them all myself, I shared them with a group of friends, who offered their feedback.

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Straight to the tasting!

The energy bars were created as a well-balanced and filling snack, that should demonstrate how tasty cricket products should be. With that in mind, here are our thoughts on tasting them:

Dark chocolate & orange Energy bar (50g/bar with 7.7g protein) 10% cricket flour

Oh so tasty. Personally, this was my favourite bar. The orange has a really strong kick, which is quite refreshing. People said it had a good aftertaste, though it was a bit dry in the mouth. This one is definitely a crowd-pleaser.

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Pineapple & coconut Energy bar (50g/bar with 6.5g protein) 10% cricket flour

I was surprised I liked this one, as I typically don’t like coconut in sweet products! Actually, it was really nice. Some of my friends found it a bit too sweet due to the pineapple, and they preferred the protein bars to the energy bars. This bar had the best consistency of the four; it stuck together well and had a great texture to it.

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The protein bars are made using high quality protein and unprocessed, natural ingredients, with the aim of being low in carbohydrates and not too sweet in taste. They should be good for muscle recovery after workouts.

Peanut butter & cinnamon Protein Bar (60g/bar with 20g protein) 20% cricket flour

This was another of our favourites. The peanut butter and cinnamon combination works really well, without making the bar too sweet. It had a great, almost sticky texture which made it really moreish.

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Dark chocolate & sesame Protein Bar (60g/bar with 20g protein) 20% cricket flour

This was the least sweet of the bars, and the dark chocolate gave it a nice rich flavour. We did find this one a bit dry and crumbly, so 60g in one sitting might be a bit too much for my taste-testers.

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Our conclusions

We really enjoyed tasting the varied flavours of the SENS bars. They were each unique in flavour and texture, showing that cricket flour products can be quite versatile. Some of my guests said that the bars had an aroma that reminded them of a pet store, so perhaps it will take time for some of us to adjust to associating insects with food. I feel the more that people get to experience insect products, the more normalised it becomes.

The majority of my party guests have tried my home-cooked products before and had no hesitation in trying the new SENS bars. Those who were new to the idea had heard how good they tasted, and were keen to finally try them. The overall favourite was the dark chocolate and orange bar, though we liked the texture and consistency of the pineapple and coconut the best.

You can find out more about Sens bar and try some yourself by visiting https://www.sensbar.com/en/shop-now A sample pack containing all four flavours will cost £9.99, and is shipped to addresses in the EU free of charge.

 

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A Presentation at the Royal Society

Many great names in science have presented at the Royal Society in London. Newton, Franklin, Darwin, and, in February, our own Jenny Josephs. Admittedly, she was not there to present a novel thesis, but to teach an audience of children and adults about eating insects as part of the Parent Carer Scientist project launch.
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Nonetheless the event was as grand as you might expect. Sumptuous carpets, dignified oil portraits frowning down from the walls, etc. It was a genuine privilege (and great fun) to work in these surroundings, and the audience was fantastic. It can be quite a challenge to simplify a talk well enough that children are engaged but their parents aren’t bored, but this event was extremely rewarding. The kids learned so much and asked so many great questions, then afterwards Jenny got the chance to speak individually to well-respected scientists and audience members, all of whom complimented her on the inspiring presentation. As a parting gift the RS gave Jenny a lovely bag printed with a flea design which she got to make herself.
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This time we were fully prepared in terms of catering, with plenty of tasty and fun child-appropriate snacks. Falafels, buffalo worm flapjacks, pork and mealworm sausage rolls, and of course toasted soy mealworms and crickets made a spread so enticing that a lot of the (delicious!) food catered by the Royal Society ended up going uneaten. This is not quite the message of sustainability we try to promote! We took home many of the leftovers to share with friends but it was still a shame to see so much food going to waste. We hope that through our work we can help to make people more mindful of what they consume and what they waste. There are so many better uses for food than throwing it away!
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Interview and Tasting on CBBC Newsround

It’s been such a hectic few months here at the Bug Shack that we’ve barely been able to keep you all updated! But while Jenny is in Thailand researching the many joys that international entomophagy has to offer we at home thought we should bring you up to speed!

Way back in October Jenny was invited to a live TV interview and bug-tasting for CBBC Newsround. This a very exciting opportunity to publicise the health and sustainability benefits of eating insects, and all the folk at the BBC were enthusiastic and friendly. Jenny even had someone to do her makeup!

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Official!

The aim was to discuss new EFSA documentation which came out around the same time, ruling that insects are indeed safe to eat and farm in the EU. The takeaway point for the kids watching at home was that some bugs can and should be eaten, but that you shouldn’t eat them straight out of the garden because you don’t know what the bugs have been eating.

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Unfortunately the invitation came at extremely short notice so there was no time to whip up some delicious falafel, muffins, or sausage rolls. Instead we took along some soy-sauce roasted mealworms, and they had some grasshoppers from another company. While these are quite tasty in their own right they do look rather dry and present more of a psychological barrier as they are quite obviously bugs! While the cameramen were up for the challenge the poor presenter Leah found it rather more difficult. In the linked video she makes some quite impressive faces, which doesn’t really bring across a positive message! After sipping some water though she admitted it wasn’t the taste at fault, but the mental barrier of munching on creepy-crawlies.

Watch the interview and tasting here!

Events News

The Bug Shack had a successful day on Sunday, bringing edible insects to the people of Romsey at their annual Food Fest. Many sausage rolls were eaten, and many first-timers enjoyed the new experience of eating bugs.

The Bug Shack will also be at Bestival on the Isle of Wight (10-13 September), so if you are going to the festival, do stop by the Science Tent to try some bugs and learn about entomophagy (eating insects). We’ll be cooking up a variety of snacks, so festival goers might even be able to dream up their own recipes!

The Bug Shack founder, Dr Jenny Josephs will be hosting ‘The Great British Bug Off’ in the Bestiversity tent during the festival too, so stop by for some fun and food!

Great British Bug Off

 

 

Bizarre Food Ingredients Hidden in Your Food Labels

Did you know that you might already be eating insects? The food colouring often labelled as carmine is actually made using crushed up cochineal beetles. A lot of things we eat are pretty bizarre. Take for instance the ice cream flavouring which is made from beaver secretions (it comes out next to their anal glands). Who invented that one?! If it tastes good though…

Here is a nice infographic from FoodPackagingLabels.Net on 14 bizarre ingredients hidden in your food labels. They also provide tips and advice on food labelling, which you can find on their website.

14 Bizarre Ingredients Hidden in Your Food Labels

Is it legal to farm insects (for human consumption) in the UK?

I was uncertain for a long time about whether or not it was legal to farm insects for human consumption in the UK. It’s hard to find a yes/no answer to that, so I thought I’d find out for myself. Here’s the short version:

Is it legal to sell insects in the UK for human consumption? Yes, certain species.
Is it legal to farm insects in the UK for human consumption? Yes, for now.
Is it legal to farm insects for animal feed in the UK? No, not for land animals; it is allowed for fish.

I recently got in touch with the FSA (Food Standards Agency), DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and my local council to find out the specifics of whether or not it is legal or not to farm insects in the UK for human consumption. Here’s a summary of what they told me.

Selling insects for food

We know that insects are allowed to be eaten in the UK, since they’re already in the shops, but are all insects allowed? Do they have to be tested? The general consensus is that it’s fine, as long as they’ve been eaten here to a significant degree before 1997.

FSA said: It is worth noting that insects and other whole animals are currently exempt from the scope of the Novel Food Regulation, Regulation (EC) 258/1997, which covers the safety of new foods and processes. However, this situation is likely to change with future amendments to the Regulation, resulting in insects that are currently marketed as foods in EU Member States requiring a novel food safety assessment unless they have been consumed to a significant degree before 15 May 1997.

Which insects are allowed?

You can find at least a dozen species of insects being sold in the UK. Mealworms, crickets and their kin are largely tolerated. I found a Belgian page which lists 10 species that are agreed and tolerated.

The FSA said: There is nothing in legislation prohibiting the sale/supply of insects for human food as long as they are safe to eat. And that food must not be injurious to health or unfit for human consumption.

You can read a bit more about which countries are allowing edible insects at 4ento.com.

Farming insects for food

The regulation on farming insects for food in the UK is a little confusing. I’m often told that a certified slaughterhouse is required for insect farming, yet there don’t seem to be any official guides on what that might be (unofficially, the insects are cooled into a state of sleep and then frozen). This confusion seems to be due to welfare and safety issues specifically tied to farming for human food; there are already large insect farms in the UK who provide insects both live and dried. We are allowed to feed live insects to birds and reptiles.

I asked: It seems that under EU Regulation (853/2004) meat must be slaughtered in a registered slaughterhouse, but that regulations for animal slaughter apply to vertebrates (1099/2009), so insects are excluded from this regulation.

Does that mean it is legal to breed insects and kill them for human consumption, without the need of a registered slaughterhouse?

The FSA told me that the important things are i) avoiding contamination by using hygiene rules and basic record keeping and ii) have in place HACCP safety procedures (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).

I was also advised that I would need to contact the Environmental Health Department (EHD) 28 days before I intend to trade, as they are responsible for making inspections on businesses.

So, essentially, it is allowed. I imagine specific rules and regulations for insect farming will come into place in the coming months, but for now, best diligence is all that is required.

Farming insects for animal feed

In the EU it’s not currently legal to feed insects to animals that will be eaten by humans, in part due to the BSE crisis of the 90’s. It’s believed that regulations will change to allow this at some point this year (2015). Research is ongoing to determine which types of food are safe to feed to feed-insects (e.g. grain, abattoir waste or manure). European regulations changed in recent years to allow us to feed insects to fish that are bred for human consumption.

Bug photo shoot

We had fun on Monday getting some photos of some new bug recipes. Here’s a preview of the photos; more recipes to come soon!

BUffalo Falafel shown with Tzatziki and BUffalo flour

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Buffalo worm trail mix, just season the worms and roast

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mealworm and pork meatballs

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The Bug Shack at TEDx and other events

Dr Jenny Josephs, founder of The Bug Shack has been invited to talk about edible insects at TEDx Southampton University. She will also be hosting a breakout session where visitors can try some delicious bug snacks and ask questions about entomophagy. You can book tickets from the Nuffield Theatre website.

TEDx Southampton university 2015

We will also be joining the Southampton University Sustainability Day on Friday 8th May; more details to come.

The Bug Shack will also be hosting a stall at Environmental Rock and serving up several tasty insect treats! Our stall was really popular last year, but we’re going to make it even better for 2015.

environmental rock 2015

Sustainability Festival

When we arrived for our stall at the Southampton Sustainability Festival today, the organisers told us how excited they were to see what food we had brought along. It’s always great to speak to people who are enthusiastic!

A lot of people who came to the stall had never tried bugs before. Some were nervous, but they told us that the roasted mealworms tasted a bit like crisps or nuts.

The sausage rolls are 50% pork, 50% mealworm, but they taste just like regular sausage rolls!

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A couple who visited the stall told us that they eat mopane worms in their home country, but they were unsure about trying something new. It was nice when they came back later on to buy some Thai buffalo worm fritters, and gave us a thumbs up!