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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - PloS one
Title Insect Consumption to Address Undernutrition, a National Survey on the Prevalence of Insect Consumption among Adults and Vendors in Laos
Author(s)
Volume 10
Issue 8
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136458
Abstract
Background

Insect consumption (entomophagy) is a potentially high nutritious and healthy source of food with high fat, protein, vitamin, fiber and micronutrient content. At least 2 billion people globally eat insects (over 1900 edible species) though this habit is regarded negatively by others. There is a limited amount of data on the perception and consumption of insects. We conducted a national cross-sectional survey in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) to assess the prevalence and characteristics of insect consumption among adult lay people and insect vendors.

Methods

We conducted a multi stage randomized national survey in 1303 households in 96 villages in 16 Lao provinces. Three insect vendors or collectors per village were also included. A standardized pretested questionnaire addressed the following issues: socioeconomic characteristics, type of insects consumed and frequency of consumption, reasons and trends in consumption as well as reports on side effects, over the last 10 years.

Results

A total of 1059 adults (Sex ratio F/M: 1.2, 30 ethnic groups), and 256 vendors were enrolled. A total of 1025 (96.8%) lay people were currently insect consumers, 135 (13.0%) daily or weekly consumers, and 322 (31.1%) consumed several times per month. For the majority (575, 55.6%) the consumption was infrequent (less than a few times per year) and only 22 (2%) had never eaten insects. Consumption started in childhood. Insect availability was seasonal (670, 63.2%) and respondents would have eaten more insects, if they had been more available (919, 86.7%). Hmong and Leu ethnic groups had significantly lower consumption levels than the general population. Eggs of weaver ants, short-tailed crickets, crickets, grasshoppers, and cicadas were the top 5 insects consumed. Consumption had decreased in the last decade, mostly due to less availability (869; 84.0%) and change of life (29; 5.5%). Of 1059, 80 (7.5%) reported allergy problems and 106 (10.0%) reported some use in traditional medicine. A total of 874 (82.6%) were regular collectors.

Insect vendors (Sex ratio F/M: 5.3) were also collectors (185; 72.2%). They dedicated a mean time of 4.7 hours during the last harvesting period. The majority sold insects at markets (141, 55.0%). They had earned, on average, USD 6.0 the day before. Five insects (weaver ant eggs; bamboo worms; short-tailed crickets; crickets; wasps) represented 85% of the market.

Conclusion

Entomophagy is general in Laos, and well accepted despite a decreasing trend in consumption over the last decade. Its contribution to the Lao diet is limited to a minority of frequent consumers. Income through insect sales benefits mostly women. Consumption varies according to ethnicity, residence and season. Development of insect farming is still at an early stage. It could however increase availability of insects and contribute to the generation of income.

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