Shadow Minister calls for research on children’s appetite for ‘alternative protein’ to be halted
Shadow Education Minister Laura Anne Jones MS has written to Jeremy Miles objecting to plans for schoolchildren in Wales to take part in research to gauge their appetite for “alternative protein”.
The research is being conducted by Cardiff University and the University of the West of England and will see children aged 5-11 being given a product called VeXo, said to look like “conventional” mince, which is a combination of insect and plant-based protein.
In her letter Ms Jones called for the education minister to step in “to ensure our children are protected, parents are well-informed and that there is a choice to take part, and not mandatory enforcement”.
Ms Jones MS, the Sennedd Member for South Wales East said: “It is absolutely ludicrous that young children are being used as guinea pigs to test the absurd desires of scientists who prefer bugs to beef.
“The Labour Government need to answer questions about how this was allowed to happen, did they sanction this, have parents been made aware, can children say no in favour of proper food, and why the sustainable nature of Welsh farming is being undermined like this.
“We know the challenges of climate change and proposals to diversify diets, but that does not mean a handful of zealots can impose their way of life on an uninterested populace, especially children, without proper and genuine consent.
“I look forward to the Minister’s reply where he will hopefully put an end to this nonsense.”
VEXo has been developed by husband and wife team chef Andy Holcroft and entomologist Dr Sarah Beynon.
It can be used in a similar way to minced meat, whilst reducing saturated fat by over 80%.
Nearly one-third of 2-15 year olds are overweight or obese, with obesity costing the NHS in Wales around £73 million.
Bug Farm Foods, which developed VeXo was funded by the Welsh Government and Innovate UK under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) project to find a way to harness the nutrients contained in insects and deliver them in a form that is acceptable to our western palettes.
The company, which has a Research and Development facility in St Davids, first launched VeXo in Wales in September 2019.
The edible insect industry has grown at a fast rate across Europe and North America over the past few years, fueled by an expanding human population demanding new, more sustainable sources of protein.
Dr Sarah Benyon said: “Insects are exceptionally nutrient-dense and environmentally sustainable to produce.
“Many insects contain weight-for-weight a similar amount of protein to beef and they can contain all nine essential amino acids. Insects can be farmed in high-welfare farms while requiring very little feed, water and space and emitting hardly any greenhouse gases.”
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