As of February this year, the ACNFP (The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes; a service-providing body of scientific experts whose job is to advise The FDA on relative novel food matters) have been asking for views on chia seeds – those benefit packed little chippers – due to an application from The Chia Seed Company, campaigning to at last allow the marketing of these wonderful seeds to extend to a variety of baked goods, fruit, nut and seed mixes and cereals; this a potentially far stretch from the outcome of the previous application.
In 2003, R Craig & Sons (M) Ltd, placed an application to approve whole and ground chia seeds for use as a novel food ingredient. (acnfp.food.gov.uk/assess/fullapplies/chia) This was authorised in October 2009, following rigorous consultations, discussions and meetings. However, unfortunately, said authorisation only granted that the seeds be restricted to marketing in bread products, containing a maximum limit of 5% chia content.
Still, I’m excited to report that so far in their assessment, their initial draft for public consultation – published this February – is looking pretty positive! (www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/chiaintop/pdf)
It appears the Chia Company delivered a fantastic application, detailing the exact methods used for ensuring correct nutritional levels are obtained in the seeds, via satellite imagery and plant tissue tests, and also explaining the cleaning process used post-harvest, both of which have notedly satisfied the committee.
It is also emphasised that the use of chia seeds in Countries outside of the EU is not restricted to bread products as it is here, and I’m glad to see that the committee have taken both the history and the recently increasing consumption of the seeds around the Globe into account.
The draft further continues, covering the previous misinterpretation and questioning of appropriate chia seed dosage and RDA. Although the ACNFP note they do not address “any nutrition or health benefits that may be claimed”, the committee do state their acceptance of the adequate insurance for the seeds not to contain any dangerous or significant levels of pathogenies, spoilage microorganism, or the presence of mycotoxins. Also, despite the application lacking toxicological evidence, the committee declare their agreement to take into account as supportive evidence, the experiences of consumption in non-EU countries. We’re telling you, these seeds are out to heal, not harm!
The only negatives that seem present are the uncertainty on any potential allergenic properties. It certainly looks like there’ll be that old familiar “may contain nuts!” type warning labels, just to be on the super safe side and increase awareness to those who do suffer from nut or seeds allergies and should therefore, still be cautious. There is mention that the EU are reasonably new to these seeds, and therefore might be at heightened risk for sensitivities, however it seems clear that chia seeds are certainly less allergenic than any other seeds.
Meanwhile, news stations such as the BBC have been reporting this new found information, delivering interviews, and promoting some of the benefits.
With all of this in mind and tow, I’d say the future’s looking pretty darn chia-full (sorry, couldn’t help myself there!) Here’s to hoping this becomes officially authorised in the very near future!