The company, Inversora Agropecuaria, 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.
Chia is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the Labiatae family. It 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.
The applicant’s chia seeds will be used in the same products as those for which approval has been granted last year for The Chia Company’s seeds (bread products, breakfast cereal, fruit, nut and seed mixes and bread and 100% packaged chia seeds).
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 (ACNFP), an independent committee of scientists appointed by the FSA.
The ACNFP have considered this application and have formulated a positive draft opinion. Any comments on this application should be emailed to the ACNFP secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 17 October 2014 and will be passed to the committee before it finalises its assessment of this novel food ingredient.