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Company lauds potential of chia seeds in Europe following positive novel foods opinion

By Oliver Nieburg , 06-Mar-2012
Last updated on 06-Mar-2012 at 12:49 GMT

The application to extend chia use in the EU came from Australian firm The Chia Company
The application to extend chia use in the EU came from Australian firm The Chia Company

Chia has the potential to become the bestselling health food ingredient in Europe, according to the company looking to secure extended EU novel foods approval for the seed considered a high source of omega-3.

Chia (also known as Salvia hispanica) is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the mint family that develops seeds. The seeds were approved in 2009 as a novel food in the EU for bread products up to 5%.

Australian chia supplier The Chia Company recently received a positive draft opinion from the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) expert Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) to have this approval extended to baked goods, breakfast cereal and nut mixes.

FSA is now canvassing views.

Prospects for EU market

April Helliwell, director of sales and marketing at the Chia Company, who worked with FSA on the novel foods application spoke to BakeryAndSnacks.com about the potential for Chia in the EU.

“Chia has the potential in Europe to become the bestselling product in health food.“

“It is the highest plant based source of Omega 3, dietary fibre and protein and can be eaten raw.“

She added that Chia would appeal to consumers as it is a natural product from a plant and could allow manufacturers to make nutritional content claims.

Potential applications include baked goods, healthy snacks, breakfast cereals and smoothies, she said.

The Chia Company hopes to launch its range of products in health food stores such as Holland & Barrett in the UK.

Supply

Chia is grown in Australia and several Latin American countries.

Helliwell claimed that consistency of supply and quality was not guaranteed with Latin America Chia, and said Australian chia was the preferred supply for large manufacturers.

She said the company had distribution centres in the UK and the Netherlands that already serviced the EU market for bread products.

Formulation

According to Helliwell, chia seeds are an expensive ingredient. However, she said that the density of the seeds meant they could be added in low volumes while still having a big impact on the nutritional profile of the end formulation.

She gave the example of Nudie Breakfast Juice in Australia, which has 3.2% chia and adds 1.6g of omega-3, 1.6g of protein and 3g of dietary fibre per 250ml.

ACNFP opinion

ACNFP recently gave a positive opinion to extend chia seeds as safe for baked goods, breakfast cereals, and nut mixes.

It said the seeds raised no toxicological concerns and the only issue was consumption by persons with existing seed allergies.

The issue is now with FSA, which is allowing comments on the draft opinion up until 9 March 2012.

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