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94kg of dried edible caterpillars seized at Gatwick Airport

Community and ForumBlog94kg of dried edible caterpillars seized at Gatwick Airport

Lev Bely, 07.03.2013 23:04

Luggages do vary and may include lot of things unimaginable to be carried — immense sofas, medieval marble mortars, even fireplace in its whole, not to forget insects... some of which yet happen to be forgotten to register, and turns out not at all inadvertently. Like that story of a 17-year-old from Dubai who was wearing her chameleon as a hat in order to carry it to Manchester. “At first I thought it was plastic,” said another passenger, “but then I saw its tongue flick out.”

Or another animal-involved incident with Robert Cusack who was caught in Los Angeles Airport in 2002 with two monkeys in his trousers and their kind friends — four birds of paradise in his suitcase.

However, the UK Border Agency’s recent seizure beat them all: on February 23rd Gatwick Airport’s border officers discovered tens of thousands of dried caterpillars in the luggage of a 22-year-old man who had travelled from Burkina Faso via Istanbul. Four hessian bags contained 94kg of insects shrink-wrapped in cellophane.

The man claimed that the caterpillars were for “personal consumption”. No chance had he though to consume those as the whole consignment was destroyed.

According to the UK Border Force, which said the seizure was the biggest ever of its kind, the insects breach controls on the importation of “products of animal origin”.

Specialists said that they were likely to be mopane worms, the larvae of emperor moths Gonimbrasia belina, which are commonly eaten throughout Africa.

Import restrictions regard products made from meat, dairy, fish, eggs and honey, as well as some fruit, vegetables and plants. The man trying to carry caterpillars has been warned about UK restrictions on importing dried insects.

Stuart Hine, an insect expert at the Natural History Museum, said there was unlikely to be a “tangible threat” to the UK food chain.

“These are likely to be mopane worms, dried caterpillars of the moth, Gonimbrasia belina,” he told The Independent. “These are eaten commonly throughout Africa and are already sold through outlets in the UK, so I can’t see that there is a tangible threat to our food chain.

“That said once this kind of insect foodstuff becomes more common in the UK, either imported or otherwise, it will eventually be subject to UK food standards. At the moment its sale and use is deemed somewhat as a novelty and food standards are not necessarily invoked.”

“This was an unusual seizure but the vigilance of our officers has stopped these dried insects from entering the UK, and possibly posing a risk to our food chain,” proclaimed Ingrid Smith, from the Border Force. “I would warn travellers not to attempt to bring any products of animal origin into the UK without a permit, as they may not have been inspected to appropriate standards and may contain diseases.”

An increasing number of British outlets offer to buy G. belina dried caterpillars for own consumption. The online retailer Firebox sells 40g bags for £16.99, saying that the insects contain three times more protein than beef.

Well, the unlucky insect lover should feel kind of upset as he could've easily had the whole supply of prime dried caterpillars at moderate £40,000, and no biggies with border control.

The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk

Photo: dried caterpillars seized at Gatwick Airport, The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk

Why Would You Eat That? on mopane worms and Feed The Office experiment by Tasted

All the rest posts on: Africa, UK, curiosity, experience

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