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Trends > Ancient Grains

Chia EU novel foods approval beckons bread deals

By Shane Starling , 27-Nov-2009
Last updated on 27-Nov-2009 at 13:32 GMT

The omega-3 and omega-6 laden ancient grain, chia, has had its European Union novel foods status confirmed for use in bread products.

The latin American seed (Salvia hispanica) that is a member of the mint family can now be incorporated into bread products at levels up to five per cent of a product’s total matter and a major EU distributor says chia-fortified bread launches are likely in 2010.

The approval, which is for the chia seed only, was written into the Official Journal of the European Union last month, more than six years after a novel foods application was lodged in June, 2003.

While that application was submitted by Irish egg producer Robert Craig & Sons in 2003 it was transferred to Columbus Paradigm Institute which resubmitted the dossier in collaboration with Chilean firm, Functional Products Trading in 2006.

Although the UK Food Standards Agency found the seed to be safe in 2004, member state queries over toxicology and allergenicity, meant further data was called for.

In March this year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found the ingredient rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as protein, fibre and amino acids to be safe.

Functional Products Trading has a branded version of chia called Benexia that is distributed by French firm Ingredia Nutitional in Europe and Pharmachem-owned Proprietary Nutritionals in North America.

Ingredia business development manager, Kaare Axelsen, said now that the novel foods approval had been ratified, dialogue was advancing with several major European bakeries in Scandinavia, western Europe and the Balkans.

“We expect a bread to launch toward the latter part of 2010,” he told NutraIngredients.com this morning. “Bakeries have for a long time been looking to get omega-3 into bread but there have been taste and texture problems. The thing with chia is that its nutrient profile presents a huge opportunity for people to do something different.”

“Chia is often typecast as an alternative to flax but it is very different in profile.”

He noted one major difference was that flax is cheaper than chia, although he expected chia prices to drop as economies of scale kicked in.

Axelsen said applications were in lieu to have the novel foods status broadened to include chia oil, powder and protein.

Although chia has not traditionally formed part of the western diet, figures released by Datamonitor last year suggest that the ingredient is being increasingly used as a ‘novel’ functional ingredient.

In 2007, there were 515 new products launched globally that contained ancient grains, essentially doubling the 257 launches recorded in 2005.

Other ancient grains include quinoa, kamut and amaranth.

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