Northern Irish company R Craig has applied for novel foods approval for chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seed, imported from South America, for use as an ingredient in bread.
R Craig suggests that a 5 per cent chia content in bread would provide the recommended daily intake of omega-3, offering a more feasible source for many people than fish or supplements.
The seeds are also high in protein (21 per cent) and a rich source of B vitamins, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and copper.
But concerns raised by the UK and other member states prompted further investigation by the European Food Safety Authority.
In an opinion published yesterday, it said there are "uncertainties with regard to the potential allergenicity of chia".
It said that there are insufficient data available to "exclude the presence of constituents which might exert anti-nutritional or toxic effects".
"Therefore the safety of chia cannot be established from the available information and additional studies are required," it concluded.
Historically, chia seeds have been eaten in South America and were a major food crop of the Aztecs throughout Mexico and Guatemala, but they have not been consumed much in Europe.
A study in Canada on 20 type 2 diabetes subjects found that a chia supplement significantly lowered systolic blood pressure and altered coagulation factors.