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Cockroach Milk as the Future of Food? Are you Kidding Me? Let’s Recover Wasted Food First!

By: , Posted on: August 19, 2016

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“Virus” by Graphics Mouse at

Last week I read an eye-catching and controversial article about the prospect of utilizing milk of cockroaches as a super food in the years to come. Yes, this is neither a joke nor a typo error. I guess these two options may come to your mind first while reading the title (actually vomiting is the first thought, but this feeling came to your stomach not to your mind). However, there are some parts of the world (e.g. in China) that eating cooked cockroaches is actually an eating trend.

According to the above report, an international team of scientists sequenced a protein crystal located in the midgut of cockroaches because it is 4-fold more nutritious compared to cow’s milk and denoted that may be the key to feed our growing population in the future. Although disgusting, from a scientific point, this idea looks somehow reasonable since we have to survive. Besides who knows, this protein may be proved to be the x-factor of cockroaches being the only living organism able to survive nuclear war!

“Rotten Apple ,tomato And Mango” of samuiblue at
“Rotten Apple ,tomato And Mango” of samuiblue at

However, people are not cockroaches. People do not care to survive nuclear war they just do not want to make it happen. And yes, this cockroach milk could be an option in the future for survivors, but only if there are no other options. But let’s remove our head out of the soil and look around. Stop watching the tree while there is a forest behind.

Five years ago, FAO published a report considering global food losses and food waste noting that nearly 1/3 of worldwide food production (1.3 billion tn/year) for human consumption is lost or wasted. The amounts of food loss and waste along the food supply chains respectively, are 54% of total loss and waste as upstream processes (including production and post-harvest) and 46% of total loss and waste as downstream processes (including processing, distribution and consumption) (FAO, 2011).

European Commission technical report (published in 2010) indicated that around 90 million tonnes of food waste are generated within EU each year. Percentage breakdown of food waste according to this report is 39% manufacturing, 42% households, 14% food service/catering, and 5% retail/wholesale (2006 EUROSTAT data and various national sources provided by EU Member States). Based on this study, it is expected that food waste would reach 126 Mtn in 2020 (from about 89 Mtn in 2006), without additional prevention policy or activities. From 2006 up to 2020, food waste tonnages are expected to be 3.7 million in EU27 when population increases by nearly 21 million.

So why not take care of these tonnages of wasted food first before discussing disgusting options? Are all of these wasted foods edible or are they disgusting too?

Of course it is difficult to recover household food waste and expect to redistribute it in proper and healthy meals. But there are really many waste streams (e.g. fruit processing by-products, ugly fruits, foods that are about to expire soon etc) that do not lack at all of nutritional and sensory characteristics compared to fresh foods (of course if we do not allow them to spoil).

Besides, the existent technologies allow not only the recovery of target compounds from food processing by-products, but also their recycling and sustainability inside food chain. For instance, phenols and carotenoids could be recovered from fruit peels prior being utilized as natural food or beverage preservatives. Recovered pectin from apple pomace could be utilized as gelling agent in confectionary or as fat replacement in meat. Water insoluble fibers (e.g. hemicelluloses from cereal processing by-products) are able to improve intestinal regulation and thereby are destined to supplement food products or ready meals. Cheese processing whey is an abundant source of lactose and proteins, and thus it is designated for the delivery of monosaccharides and oligopeptides in nutritional supplements and soft drinks, respectively. Protein hydrolyzates from fish by-products have also been proposed as seafood flavors for soups or surimi.

These considerations are not theoretical anymore. Today, at least 50 companies around the world recover valuable compounds from food waste and sell them as clean label ingredients for processed food products (e.g. natural preservatives to maintain shelf-life requirements, functional compounds), without impacting flavour or texture.

Science should not have borders, but in the case of food, innovations do not always have to be too sophisticated. Implementation of the innovations and consumer acceptance are the x-factors for success. Similar to food waste and feeding choices, there are simpler suggestions in all cutting-edge areas (e.g. biobased packaging materials, functional foods, adoption of ICTs, foodomics, emerging technologies etc) of the food industry.

About the Books

Innovation Strategies in the Food Industry: Tools for Implementation is an indispensable resource for the food industry to introduce innovations in the market, stand out from the competition and satisfy consumer demands. This reference reports the most trend advances of the food science, while providing insights and ideas to overcome limitations for their actual implementation in the industry. Innovation Strategies in the Food Industry: Tools for Implementation fills the gap between strategy developers and technical R&D associates by interpreting the technological adequacy of innovative techniques with the reaction of related consumers. It deals with the interaction of academia and industry, describing innovation and long term R&D strategies to overcome bottlenecks during know-how transfer between these two sectors.

Key features of the book include:

  • innovation strategies in the food industryReports the development of cooperative networks for the commercialization of new food products
  • Includes the concept of open innovation, denoting the particular issues that SMEs are facing during their innovation efforts and suggest respective innovation policies in the agrifood sector
  • Discusses the challenges of introducing innovations in traditional food products
  • Describes the sustainability problems and restrictions (safety and energy issues) of innovations in food processing and emerging technologies
  • Exploits the cutting-edge innovation cases of  food science and their applications in the food industry
  • Addresses the observed problems and provides solutions to meet market and consumers’ needs

Register here for an online presentation of the book here.

Food Waste Recovery: Processing Technologies and Industrial Techniques acts as a guide to recover valuable components of food by-products and recycle them inside the food chain, in an economic and sustainable way. The book investigates all the relevant recovery issues and compares different techniques to help you advance your research and develop new applications. Strong coverage of the different technologies is included, while keeping a balance between the characteristics of current conventional and emerging technologies. This is an essential reference for research outcomes. Click here for figures as they relate to the development and recovery strategy.

Key features of the book include:

food waste recovery• Presents a holistic methodology (the so-called “5-Stages Universal Recovery Process”) and a general approach (the so-called “Universal Recovery Strategy”) to ensure optimized management of the available technologies and recapture of different high added-value compounds from any waste source
• Includes characteristics, safety and cost issues of conventional and emerging technologies, the benefits of their application in industry, and commercialized applications of real market products
• Demonstrates all aspects of the recovery process such as preservation of the substrate, yield optimization, preservation of functionality of the target compounds during processing, and more

Visit the Elsevier Store to purchase your copies today. Use discount code “STC215″ at checkout and save up to 30%!

About the Editor

charis galanakis

Charis M. Galanakis is a dynamic and interdisciplinary scientist with a fast-expanding work that balances between food and sustainability, industry and academia. He has established the “Food Waste Recovery” term and has developed the relevant network in ISEKI Food Association (the biggest worldwide) to inspire related professionals to extract high added-value compounds from wasted by-products and re-utilize them in the food chain. He is the R&I director of Galanakis Laboratories (Chania, Greece) and the co-founder of Phenoliv AB (Lund, Sweden). He serves as an editorial board member and subject editor of Food Research International, Food and Bioproducts Processing and Nutrition Food Science and Technology.

Follow Dr. Galanakis via Twitter – @CharisGalanakis, LinkedIn or ResearchGate.
Meet Dr. Galanakis at the Food Waste Recovery Workshop, join the Food Waste Recovery Group on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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Food Science & Nutrition

The field of food science is highly interdisciplinary, spanning areas of chemistry, engineering, biology, and many more. Researchers in these areas achieve fundamental advances in our understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and food-borne illness, and develop new technologies, like food processing methods and packaging material. Against a backdrop of global issues of food supply and regulation, this important work is supported by Elsevier’s catalog of books, eBooks, and journals in food science, considered essential resources for students, instructors, and health professionals worldwide. Learn more about our Food Science and Nutrition books here.