Novel foods, such as edible insects and food products on the basis of insects, could play an important role in both human and animal nutrition in the future. The identification of dangers associated with insect consumption is fundamental to guarantee consumer safety and adequate regulatory guidelines for operators of the food sector. Although former studies have focused on the microbiological contamination of fresh or processed edible insects, so far little information is available about the occurrence of foodborne parasites, such as Toxoplasma gondii, whose life cycles make them candidates for potential insect breeding substrate contamination. Hence, we investigated the presence of contaminating T. gondii in farmed edible insects to rule out this further hazard for consumers. Four species of insects most commonly used as food for human consumption were analyzed: mealworm; African migratory locust, house cricket, and silkworm. Samples included live specimens but also minimally (dehydrated) and highly processed edible insects. Traces of T. gondii DNA were detected in samples of dehydrated mealworm. These results highlight the need for implementing good farming and processing practices with particular care paid to safe storage and handling of feed and substrates used for edible insects to reduce the chance of T. gondii entering the human food chain.

  • Toxoplasma gondii DNA was detected in 1 (6.25%) of 16 samples of edible insects.

  • Dehydrated mealworm was found contaminated with parasite DNA.

  • Good farming and processing practices are critical for breeding insects as a safe food.

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