People in Finland seem especially keen on finding out about and trying edible insects or insect-based foods.
Some 70 percent of 585 respondents to a new study conducted by the University of Turku and the Natural Resources Institute said they are interested in insects as a foodstuff.
About 50 percent said they would gladly buy insect-based food if it were made available in stores. A third said they had already tried eating them in some form.
Keener than in other countries
The survey is part of a Insects in the food chain-project sponsored by the Finnish tech funding agency Tekes. The project gauged Finnish attitudes towards eating insects and compared these results with similar statistics in Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic.
A Turku University release says Finnish residents were more open to the idea of eating insects than those from the other countries.
While half of Finns would be willing to eat bugs, less than 40 percent of Swedes, 30 percent of Czechs and just 25 percent of Germans surveyed said they'd do the same.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the people most enthusiastic about the possibility in Finland were under 45 years of age.
Accurate information to dispel doubts
Insects can be eaten in a variety of forms, from entire cooked insects to ground meal. Many crowd-sourced ideas lean towards introducing insects as protein-rich ingredients in snacks and prepared meals.
For example, meatballs, nuggets and pizza fillings could utilise insect proteins, says Turku University's Terhi Pohjanheimo.
"Consumers would find it easiest if insects were simply added to products in powdered form," she says, as many might find the idea of bugs in their food unappetising.
Project coordinator Jaakko Korpela says any public misgivings are usually based on a lack of accurate information.
"By offering fact-based information on how to best utilise them, and by offering the opportunity to actually taste them, we can do much to improve the image-related qualms," Korpela says.
Many food sector companies interviewed in the Tekes-backed project said they consider insects a good potential ingredient for boosting nutrients and minimising the ecological footprint of their products.
Marketing still illegal in EU
Finland's food safety watchdog Evira writes that Finland has joined with most EU countries to forbid the use of insects as food until further notice. While it is widely understood that insects could potentially be a nutritious raw material in foods, the agency maintains that the safety of the various species as food must first be verified.
Because Finland is a part of the EU, the European Commission must first establish that the eating of insects is safe and authorise their sale and marketing before they can be placed on the market.
Evira nevertheless notes that European and domestic legislation has no bearing on what individual people eat or drink, as that is everyone's personal responsibility.