EDIBLE insects could be a solution to avoiding a global food crisis if consumers can overcome barriers such as the “ick factor”, a new study has found.

Insects are an environmentally sustainable food source, with a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to meat production, the report published in the Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety journal revealed.

But attitudes towards eating insects and current farming techniques and technologies need to change if edible insects are to become a common food source, researchers from the University of Leeds and the University of Veracruz, in Mexico, said.

The report found that edible insect cultivation remains rare in Western countries, where eating insects is still considered unusual, while negative perceptions have taken root in some countries where insects have been eaten traditionally, with the younger population associating it with poverty.

The best way of normalising edible insects is to target the preferences of the younger generation, who showed interest in using edible insects in unrecognisable forms, such as in flour or powder used in cookies or energy drinks, the authors said. Serving them between snacks was also effective.

The study, Edible Insects Processing: Traditional and Innovative Technologies, was carried out as worldwide food security faces serious risks, including the rapidly changing climate and an expanding global population.

Dr Guiomar Melgar-Lalanne, study author from the University of Veracruz, added: “The ‘foodies boom’ and the rise of veganism and flexitarians have opened the door to alternative food sources.

“But if edible insects are to become a common food source, current farming techniques and technologies could struggle with the demand and need to be expanded.”