Cicada ice cream made a big buzz on the web this week. While misinformation flooded the net blaming the health department for shutting down Sparky's newest flavor, TreeHugger's Bonnie gave you the straight dope: the Columbia, Missouri based homemade ice cream shop chose to discontinue sales of cicada ice cream in spite of strong demand. Today we look at the even sadder truth. The reason Sparky's stopped their Cicada experiment stems from a lack of understanding about the safety of entomophagy, or eating bugs.
If the health department did give the advice that Sparky's should reconsider their cicada ice cream flavor because they did not know the safe cooking process, that is a terrible shame. Cicada's are considered by many to be a great delicacy. A history of safe human consumption indicates that either boiling or frying are suitable methods of preparation, so those who tried Sparky's exciting experiment can rest assured that the people at Sparky's did their homework. Sparky's employees even removed the wings, which is not necessary but probably improves the experience in a culture unaccustomed to eating the crunchy parts with our food.
We consider a bigger problem on the horizon for the edible insect movement. Although harmless, cicada masses frighten or disturb humans. If people are spraying them with pesticides, then the health department is right to question the safety of eating the insects. Those who tried the cicada ice cream should not fear: the small number of insects speckling their treat should not pose a health hazard, even if the insects are carrying traces of chemicals.
But if humanity wants to turn to insects as an alternative protein source, the scope and use of pesticides in our environment will have to be considered. Given that dirty fruits and vegetables are already commonly accepted, will eating insects increase our risks? It is time for more than ice cream experiments if we want to understand the case for eating insects.