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Andean Grain gears up for chia cheer after EU approval

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn+

Last updated on 16-Jul-2014 at 13:08 GMT2014-07-16T13:08:54Z

Chia clear: Andean Grain Products positive after EU novel foods approval. Image credit: Stacy Spensley
Chia clear: Andean Grain Products positive after EU novel foods approval. Image credit: Stacy Spensley

Andean Grain Products has received a positive draft novel food opinion from the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) for its chia seeds – deeming them sufficiently ‘equivalent’ to those already approved for market in the EU.

Thomas Spillane, director of Andean Grain, told the move would eventually open up end-product opportunities for the company which at present only supplies other companies already approved to market chia in the EU.

He said the positive opinion would give the company – which has offices in London and Buenos Aires – a significant leg up in the region where only a handful of companies have “on the ground” chia connections.

Under the European Novel Foods Regulation, if an ingredient or food has already gained novel approval, companies can apply to member states to argue it's version is “substantially equivalent” in composition, nutritional value, metabolism, intended use and level of undesirable substances to a comparable food already approved for the European Union.

In this case the company chose the UK authority’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP), which concluded that Andean Grain chia seeds were substantially equivalent to the existing chia seed produced by The Chia Company”.

Importing a novelty

FSA’s latest positive opinion rides on the back of an approved application for novel status from The Chia Company in 2013 and an initial approval of Robert Craig & Sons’ application in 2009. Novel food approval is required when a food or ingredient does not have a significant history of consumption within the EU before May 15 1997.

Andean Grain applied for the same product uses as those granted last year to The Chia Company - bread products, breakfast cereals, fruit, nut and seed mixes, bread and 100% packaged chia seeds.

Spillane said under EU law anyone can import raw chia material – as his company was doing before its own approval - a loophole in the system he said, “made no sense”.

Andean Grain Products imports its chia from South America, while The Chia Company cultivated its seeds in Australia. 

On this difference, the committee noted it was, "satisfied that minor differences observed between the seeds were likely to be due to differing growing conditions and agreed that that the data were sufficient to conclude that Andean Grain Products’ seed and the Australian chia seed have an equivalent composition". 

Following this final draft, FSA’s ACNFP welcomes comments running up to July 23. Since the opinion has already passed through several stages, Spillane said he anticipated this would run smoothly.


Linking up:

European Commission’s decision on the novel food status for Robert Craig & Sons chia seeds as a food ingredient , November 2009.

European Commission’s decision on the novel food status for The Chia Company chia seeds bread products , January 2013.

Andean Grain Products’ request for scientific evaluation , March 2014. 

FSA draft opinion on Andean Grain Products chia seeds, July 2014.

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