Views wanted on chia seeds

Last updated:
3 December 2013
A company has asked the FSA's expert advisers on novel foods to consider an application and an opinion for chia seeds to be approved for use in the European Union (EU) under the simplified approval procedure. Views are wanted on the application and the independent experts' draft opinion.

The simplified approval procedure and 'equivalence'

The company, Nutrisure, is based in the UK. It is requesting an opinion from the FSA on the 'equivalence' of their chia seeds, which are grown in particular regions of South America, with the chia seeds marketed by The Chia Company that are grown in Australia.

The European Novel Foods Regulation includes a simplified approval procedure for when a company believes 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.

More about the seeds

Chia is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the Labiatae family. The plant grows from a seedling to develop lush green foliage before it produces long flowers, which are either purple or, less commonly, white. These flowers develop into seed pods to produce chia seeds. Although chia is grown commercially in several Latin American countries and Australia, the seeds have not been consumed to a significant degree in Europe.

If approved, the applicant's chia seeds will be used in bread and bread products, breakfast cereal, fruit, nut and seed mixes and 100% packaged chia seeds. Approval was granted for The Chia Company’s seeds to be used in these products earlier this year.

About novel foods

A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997.

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 the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, an independent committee of scientists appointed by the FSA.

Deadline for comments

The ACNFP has considered this application and has formed a positive draft opinion. Any comments on the draft opinion or the dossier should be emailed to the ACNFP Secretariat at [email protected] by Tuesday 24 December 2013 and will be passed to the committee when it concludes its assessment of this novel food ingredient.