THE shock value of eating insects has been somewhat blunted by a round of awareness-raising roadshows and festivals with headline-grabbing names such as Pestival, where ant cocktails and butter-roasted crickets are served, and by the reality TV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, where contestants are dared to eat live spiders which has spawned an online demand for crispy deep-fried crickets, ants in chocolate and bug lollipops. Last year the UK’s first insect restaurant, Bug Kitchen, opened in Wales with a menu that includes bug burritos, cricket crepes, cheesy locust croquettes and a signature burger made with toasted crickets, mealworms, grasshoppers, spinach and sundried tomatoes.

I have tasted frozen bee larvae, a fish sauce made with grasshoppers and wood larvae, and deep-fried ants and crickets, and have lived to tell the tale.

Yet although it’s not exactly new, the idea of eating insects is still repulsive to most in the West, even if the UN and others say they are rich in protein, fats, vitamins and minerals (if they have fed on good things and not rubbish) and have the potential to help fight world hunger and feed a projected global population of nine billion by 2050 more quickly more cheaply and sustainably than conventional livestock and grain farming.

Our resistance is strongest when we can see the natural shape of the insect as we try to ingest it; when it’s masked by, say, chocolate or chopped up and incorporated into a dish with other ingredients, that’s not quite so bad but it’s still seen as a step too far by many – an attitude that puts us way behind other nations in Asia, Central and South America and Africa, where insects have always been part of the diet.

Within the EU, insects have not yet officially been approved as a source of food and are not bred for human consumption, though some shops in Holland and Belgium have been selling insect-enriched products from imported bugs.

Things may be about to change, though, as Switzerland has been granted approval to test edible insects for one year, and the edible insect market is beginning to take off with a swarm of business start-ups. Last week saw the launch of an pasta brand that contains 20% cricket flour, which has been approved by America's FDA. Produced in Bangkok, Thailand, by a company called Bugsolutely, this pasta made of a mix of durum semolina flour, wheat flour and cricket flour and is described as tasting like roasted almonds. It’s being touted as a new superfood on the basis that crickets are 70% protein and need very little food and water to grow. Currently in fusilli form, other pasta shapes are being worked on for release this year.

Bugsolutely hopes the cricket pasta, using dried insects which are milled down to a fine flour, will finally break down barriers. Considering the processed rubbish we consume in the West every single day without batting an eyelid, our repulsion for something so natural seems frankly perverse.

Who knows? What started as a small hop for a tiny bug may yet end up being a giant leap for mankind.