The Chia Company seeks entry into European market

Posted by Josette Dunn on 8th February 2010

 Australian producer The Chia Company has applied to the UK Food Standards Agency for an opinion on the ‘equivalence’ of their chia seed to be used in bread products in the EU.  Their chia seeds will be eligible for a simplified novel foods approval procedure if the Australian grown seeds are substantially equivalent to the South American grown chia seeds already on the market.

The Chia Company is currently the world’s largest producer of natural, raw chia seeds, and gaining entry into the European market would be a huge boon for the company.

So what is Chia?  Chia (also known as salvia hispanica) is a plant belonging to the mint family.  The seed has a mid nutty taste, and is the highest plant based source of Omega 3, dietary fibre and protein.

Chis is currently used in nutritional supplements, bars, breakfast cereal and cookies in the US; in pasta in Chile; and in a yogurt produced by Fonterra in Australia.

Chia seeds are not a well known food in Australia or Europe, however given the current popularity of healthy ‘super-foods’ we are sure to see more of chia in the near future.

The Chia Company sells chia in the form of whole seeds, bran, ground seeds and oil.  Chia can be consumed in many different ways such as sprinkled in salads,added to cereals or muesli, and baked into breads, muffins, cookies and the like.

The FSA first granted chia novel foods approval in October 2009, to Columbus Paradigm Institute and Chilean company Functional Products Trading, for the use of South American grown chia seed in bread at levels of up to 5 per
cent. This approval came after a positive safety opinion was granted by the European Food Safety Authority in March of the same year.

Australia’s The Chia Company is similarly proposing to use the seeds in bread, at the same 5 per cent usage.  In addition to the seeds, The Chia Company is believed to be preparing to seek approval for chia oil, powder and protein.