Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA News Item, 4 July 2003

NOVEL FOODS - Approval sought for Chia seed

The Agency has received an application to approve whole and ground Chia seed as a new or novel food. Chia (Salvia hispanica L) is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the mint family.

R Craig & Sons [M] Ltd have submitted an application to the Food Standards Agency for approval to place whole Chia seed and ground whole seed on the market. Its seeds provide a source of the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Chia seeds are intended to be added to bread, which would provide another possible food source of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Historically, Chia seeds have been eaten in South America, but they have not been consumed to a significant degree in Europe.

Chia was a major food crop of the Aztecs and was grown in mountainous areas extending from west Central Mexico to Northern Guatemala. Chia seeds were roasted and ground to form a meal called 'pinole', then mixed with water to form a porridge or made into cakes.

Today, Chia seeds are being grown in Argentina and Peru, but can't be cultivated in Europe because Chia needs sub-tropical conditions to grow.

Before any new food product can be introduced on the European market it must be subjected to a thorough assessment of wholesomeness to protect public health.

This assessment is carried out under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 258/97 concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients.

An initial discussion of this application by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) will take place at the Committee's meeting on 16 July 2003.

Any comments on this application should be sent to the ACNFP Secretariat by 25 July 2003 and will be passed to the Committee before it finalises its opinion on this novel food.

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