Food Law News - UK - 2013

FSA News Item, 7 June 2013

NOVEL FOODS - Views wanted on chia seeds

A company has asked the FSA's expert advisers on novel foods to consider an application for chia seeds to be approved for use in the European Union (EU) under the simplified approval procedure. Views are wanted on the independent experts' draft opinion. A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the EU before 15 May 1997.

The simplified approval procedure and 'equivalence'

The company is Infoods Ltd (based in the UK). It is requesting an opinion from the Agency on the 'equivalence' of their chia seeds, which are grown in particular regions of South America, with the chia seeds grown in Australia and marketed by The Chia Company.

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 that 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 applicants' chia seeds will be used in the same products as those for which approval was granted earlier this year for The Chia Company’s seeds (bread products, breakfast cereal, fruit, nut and seed mixes and bread and 100% packaged chia seeds).

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 assessed rigorously 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 should be emailed to the ACNFP Secretariat by Monday 17 June 2013 and will be passed to the committee when it concludes its assessment of this novel food ingredient.

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