Subacute Oral Toxicity Evaluation of Expanded-Polystyrene-Fed Tenebrio molitor (Yellow Mealworm) Larvae Powder in Sprague-Dawley Rats

Eun-Young Choi1, Jae-Han Lee1, So-Hee Han1, Gi-Hwan Jung1, Eun-Ji Han1, Su-Ji Jeon1, Soo-Hyun Jung1, Jong-Uk Park2, Ji-Hoon Park2, Yoon-Ju Bae2, Eun-Soo Park2, Ji-Youn Jung1,*
Author Information & Copyright
1Department of Companion and Laboratory Animal Science, Kongju National University, Yesan 32439, Korea
2MCE Inc., Daejeon 34134, Korea
*Corresponding Author: Ji-Youn Jung, Department of Companion and Laboratory Animal Science, Kongju National University, Yesan 32439, Korea. E-mail:

© Copyright 2022 Korean Society for Food Science of Animal Resources. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Apr 08, 2022 ; Revised: May 04, 2022 ; Accepted: May 17, 2022

Published Online: May 25, 2022


Tenebrio molitor larva, as known as edible insects, has advantages of being rich in protein, and has been recognized as a suitable alternate protein source for broiler and pig feed. Moreover, given their ability to biodegrade polystyrene, a major pollutant, Tenebrio molitor larvae has been proposed as an innovative solution to environmental problems. In the present study, we investigated the toxicity of Tenebrio molitor larvae powder (TMlp) ingested with expanded-polystyrene (W/ eps) through in vitro and in vivo experiments. The objective of this study was to determine whether TMlp W/ eps can be applied as livestock alternative protein source. For in vitro experiments, cytotoxicity test was performed to investigate the effects of TMlp-extract on the viability of estrogen-dependent MCF-7 cells. The possibility of estrogen response was investigated in two groups: expanded-polystyrene-fed TMlp (W/ eps) group and without expanded-polystyrene-fed TMlp (W/o eps) group. For in vivo experiments, The male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were divided based on the dosage of TMlp administered and oral administration was performed to every day for 5 weeks. A toxicological assessments were performed, which included clinical signs, food consumption, body and organ weights, hematology, serum chemistry, and hematoxylin and eosin staining of liver and kidney. There were no specific adverse effect of TMlp W/ eps-related findings under the experimental conditions of this study, but further studies on both sexes and animal species differences should be investigated. In conclusion, TMlp W/ eps was considered non-toxic and observed to be applicable as an alternative protein source for livestock feed.

Keywords: Tenebrio molitor; expanded polystyrene; edible insect; food safety; subacute toxicity

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