Feasibility of Isopods as Safe Food for Human Consumption


crab-like isopodsConsumers of terrestrial isopods for sale in the UK
use them as cleaners and feeders, which allow them to create intricate ecosystems in enclosures like terrariums, vivariums and feeder tanks. Other consumers are collectors fascinated by the different colours, patterns, characteristics and behaviours, especially of the rare breeds found in exotic countries.

Since isopods belong to the crustacean family some have toyed with the idea of using it as an alternative meat ingredient. Apparently, it remained an idea since the tiny terrestrial crustaceans do not have enough meat to offer.

Use of Giant Deep-Sea Isopods as Special Ingredient for Exotic Dishes

Last year in Taiwan Asia, a ramen shop in Taipei City made news over a limited-edition ramen dish that featured the meat of giant isopods as a special ingredient. People flocked and queued up at the food shop, not just to eat but also to take photos of ramen bowls topped with the exoskeleton shell of a 14-legged giant isopod measuring about 12 inches long.

According to the food shop manager, the 14-legged deep-sea giant isopods were separately steamed for about 10 minutes before the meat and the yellow gland was added to a rich mix of chicken and fish soup base. Customers commented that the meat tasted a lot like crab and lobster but a bit on the chewy side.

Exotic Isopod Ramen Dish Met with Criticisms Coming from by Biology Scholars and Deep-Sea Environment Experts

Even before the exotic isopod ramen dish was featured as a news item, medical and deep-sea researchers were already looking into the potential toxicity of deep-sea animals used for human consumption.

deep sea animalsApparently, denizens of deep-sea environments have spent longer lifespans that denote longer periods of exposure leading to greater bioaccumulation of toxins like mercury and heavy metals in their bodies. Such metals have been medically linked as causes of various disorders such as acute and chronic toxicity, liver damage, kidney impairment, bone diseases and various types of cancer.

When news of the isopod ramen dish went viral, Huang Ming-chih, an associate professor at the National University of Tainan specialising in deep-sea invertebrates, expressed concerns about the potential health risks of consuming a relatively unknown deep-ocean species.

The giant 14-legged marine animal was officially recognized in Taiwan only in 2022 as a species of the isopod genus. That being the case, there is no comprehensive data to affirm that it’s fit and safe for human consumption. Professor Ming-chih recommends conducting more in depth research, especially in determining the species’ potential toxic contents before promoting it as an edible exotic ingredient.