Ensuring quality, feed safety and hygiene: A commitment to excellence

The production of insects and the use of insect-based products in animal feed is growing worldwide and safety issues related to insect farming and processing remain a major concern for the feed industry such as pet food, aquafeed, livestock feed. Insect producers are becoming more professional by establishing and adhering to the rules.

Azwa Aasdik
Quality Assurance Manager
Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia Sdn Bhd
Tze Min Teo
Chief R&D Officer
Entofood Sdn Bhd

Insect farming has become increasingly popular in Asia and there are challenges involved in the scaling of insect protein particularly related to quality control measures, risk assessments due to the absence of an international regulatory framework.

A recent study conducted by the Asian Food and Feed Insects Association (AFFIA) in 20221 found that nearly most of the Southeast Asian surveyed producers refer to global standards such as the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP/GMP+), HACCP, and to IPIFF Good Hygiene Practice guidelines2. These guidelines emphasise good hygiene practices and incorporate HACCP principles for insect production, addressing specific concerns outlined by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)3. While sector-specific hygiene guides are encouraged, compliance remains voluntary for insect producers, with the guide serving as a reference rather than a substitute for regulation. It also applies to third country operators wishing to sell insect products in the EU, indicating compliance with EU standards. The guidelines outline the details of importing insect products, and emphasises compliance with specific regulations and certification requirements. It covers subsequent activities within the EU, including packaging, transport, and retailing4.

HEALTH & SAFETY STANDARDS
Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia Sdn Bhd, one of the largest producers of Black Soldier Fly in Asia Pacific, has its facility located in the north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with a production capacity of 3 000 tons of insect-based products per year.

Ensuring feed safety is crucial for Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia to meet regulatory requirements, maintain the confidence of feed customers and uphold industry standards for insects. Although there is no international standard for insects set by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), our approach has been to apply appropriate quality management principles demonstrating that we are operating in a feed safety environment.

We are ISO 22000:2018 certified, a globally recognised food safety management system, with a strong emphasis on risk assessments.

We follow strict quality control, provide ongoing staff training/education and adapt the best practices from the food industry. As such, we implement the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles by identifying hazards and critical control points (CCP) in our production process.

Our production line is equipped with sensors that monitor the process and parameters impacting on critical control points during the drying and packing steps. Additionally, our plant is GMP+ certified, ensuring consistent adherence to international quality standards.

We are committed to IPIFF Good Hygiene Practices on biosecurity by protecting our building and premises from external environmental risks, such as flooding, pollution, pests and diseases. We have designed and built our plant with specific measures to prevent the escape of insects.

By applying all these stringent standards and complying with EU and FDA regulations5, we are able to export our high quality, consistent products to the regulated markets.

CHALLENGES IN INSECT PRODUCTION
The quality of our insect products is determined not only by the nutritional value but also by the controls implemented during the manufacturing process.

Insect-based ingredients production consists of three steps: farming, harvesting and processing. It is crucial to monitor them and be compliant with feed regulations. Our integrated model guarantees complete traceability at every step of our production.

On site, we handle all three steps and we ensure that Black Soldier Fly are farmed under controlled hygienic conditions. We implement sanitary processing techniques to limit safety risks.

We focus on the quality of the substrate used to feed the Black Soldier Fly larvae. We are regularly testing it to guarantee that they don’t contain any physical, chemical and microbiological contaminants (e.g foreign materials, heavy metals, dioxins, pesticides residues, mycotoxins…)6. We have also established a strong relationship with our substrate suppliers and share the best practices through production, transportation and storage.

We continuously monitor the moisture content and systematically perform toxicological tests on all batches of feeding substrate.

In addition, our process includes effective treatments such as high-temperature blanching and drying, which are critical steps in controlling microbial pathogens. Each batch of our products is marked at every stage of the production process to ensure full traceability and to comply with microbiological safety standards and required residue limits stipulated in the relevant regulations7.

As an establishment registered in the TRACES system, which is required to export animal products to the European market, Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia undergoes regular veterinary and sanitary inspections by the local Malaysian authorities through the Disease Control and Veterinary Biosecurity Division of the Department of Veterinary Services.

OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE AND INNOVATION
Beyond compliance, it is important to actively seek for innovative solutions to improve quality and safety. We have improved our breeding and production through the use of data analytics where all data is collected, analysed and leveraged. Our data-driven approach allows us to monitor the production, to identify patterns, detect anomalies and eventually predict safety or quality issues. This enables us to promptly adjust and maintain optimal and high-quality insect farming conditions.

CONCLUSION
The production of insects and the use of insect-based products in animal feed is growing worldwide and safety issues related to insect farming and processing remain a major concern for the feed industry such as pet food, aquafeed, livestock feed. Insect producers are becoming more professional by establishing and adhering to the rules.

At Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia, we have gained deep knowledge on the hazards associated with farming and processing of Black Soldier Fly larvae by analysing all the data collected. We comply with the feed hygiene standards, good breeding and manufacturing practices, which is supporting us to continuously optimise and improve the quality and safety of our insect-based products.

In Southeast Asia, AFFIA (Asian Food & Feed Insects Association) brings together the industry players and researchers during the 5th International Insect to Feed the World Conference (IFW 2024) which will be held in Singapore from June 19th-22nd. This international platform is a good opportunity to share experience on hygiene, quality and safety.

References:
1AFFIA Survey, available in April 2024 on AFFIA’s website: https://affia.org/
2IPIFF Guide on Good Hygiene Practices.
3Risk profile related to production and consumption of insects as food and feed. (2015) EFSA Scientific Committee
4See Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 on the placing on the market and use of feed, and Regulation (EC) No 183/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 January 2005 laying down requirements for feed hygiene.
5A. Lähteenmäki-Uutela, S.B Marimuthu and N. Meijer, 2021. Regulations on insects as food and feed: a global comparison. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 7(5): 849-856
6A.M. Meyer, N. Meijer, E.F. Hoek-van den Hil and H.J. van der Fels-Klerx, 2021. Chemical food safety hazards of insects reared for food and feed. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 7(5): 823-831
7Method 7 in Regulation Chapter III of Annex IV to Commission Regulation EU 142/2011 on health rules as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption

About Azwa Aasdik
Azwa Aasdik has over eleven years of quality experience in the agro-industry and joined Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia Sdn Bhd as Quality Assurance Manager. She manages the quality team and works closely with the technical and production teams to maintain consistent quality of the insect-based ingredients. She also ensures compliance with the local & international regulations.
Aasdik obtained a BSc degree in Chemistry from The National University of Malaysia & she is certified Environmental Professional in Scheduled Waste Management from the Environmental Institute of Malaysia.

About Tze Min Teo
Tze Min Teo is an entomologist and molecular biologist with over thirteen years of experience in research activities. She is currently the Chief R&D Officer at Entofood Sdn Bhd and involved in improving black soldier fly farming. She also provides technical support to Entofood’s partner Veolia Bioconversion Malaysia.
Tze Min holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology from the University of Oxford. She is an active member of various organisations in Malaysia such as the Entomological Society of Malaysia (ENTOMA), the Malaysian Plant Protection Society (MAPPS) and the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC) to the Malaysian Department of Biosafety.
Teo is passionate about environmental conservation and serves as a volunteer survey diver for Reef check Malaysia, an NGO dedicated to reef protection.