FSA News Item, 4 February 2010
An Australian company has asked the Agency's expert advisers on novel foods to consider its application for the chia seed under the simplified approval procedure. The seed is from a type of mint plant. A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union (EU) before 15 May 1997.
The simplified approval procedure and 'equivalence'
The Chia Company is requesting an opinion from the Agency on the ‘equivalence’ of their Australian-grown chia seed to be used in bread products. The basis of this request is that its product is equivalent to the chia seed grown in South America.
The European Commission Novel Foods Regulation includes a simplified approval procedure for when a company thinks its novel food is substantially equivalent to a food that is already on the market. In such a situation, the applicant can submit a notification to the European Commission after obtaining an opinion on equivalence from an EU Member State – in this case the UK.
Chia (also known as Salvia hispanica) is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the mint family. Chia is grown commercially in several Latin American countries and Australia, but the chia seed has not been consumed to a significant degree in the EU and is therefore considered to be a novel food.
The company intends to limit the use of its chia seed to bread products at a maximum level of 5%. This is consistent with authorisation given to the South American-grown chia seed in 2009.
Before any new food product can be introduced on the European market it must be rigorously assessed for safety. In the UK, the assessment of novel foods is carried out by an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Food Standards Agency, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP).
Deadline for comments
Any comments on this application should be emailed to the ACNFP secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday 25 February 2010. The comments will be passed to the committee when it begins its assessment of this novel food ingredient.