The sterilization process - BI's Protexx HP process – provides an ingredient that is free of any potential pathogens, while the nutritional content of the seeds is preserved, said BI.
"Most of the chia seed growers and harvesters in South America and Mexico do not incorporate a sterilization process to guarantee a pathogen free product,” said Walter Postelwait, VP of marketing & sales at BI Nutraceuticals. “BI provides this critical sterilization, as well as conducts thorough finished product testing to assure our customers that our chia seed meets the strictest quality standards for foods and dietary supplements."
Angela Dorsey-Kockler, RD, Product Manager with BI Nutraceuticals told NutraIngredients-USA said that, while the company cannot verify that it is the only ones providing sterilized chia seed in the US, it does have “evidence that other sources (brokers) are not guaranteeing the quality of their products (including microbial levels) and it is extremely important for manufacturers to carefully review certificates of analysis to ensure they are purchasing safe, sterilized material”.
Chia is the edible seed of the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family, which grows in Latin American countries including Mexico, Argentina and Peru. The seeds are said to be a significant source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are also rich in fiber (over 5 percent soluble fiber), protein (over 20 percent), amino acids, and a range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals (including calcium, B vitamins, zinc, boron, potassium, copper and phosphorus). They are also said to be a stable source of antioxidants.
Specifically in terms of fiber, chia is reported to contain 27.5 percent fiber, compared with 17.3, 12.2, 10.6, and 3.3 percent for barley, wheat, oats and corn, respectively, according to NutritionData.com.
Dorsey-Kockler said that import data of chia seeds for 2009 suggests the US market is approximately $5 million.
According to BI, the seeds can be easily incorporated into a range of food products, including cereals, breads, soups, salad dressings and nutrition bars. They can also be added to sports beverages, with the omega-3s addressing inflammation and protein helping with muscle recovery, said BI.
"Our chia seeds meet all cGMP standards and are kosher and halal certified," added Postelwait.
According to reports, the essential fatty acid (EFA) profile of chia seeds provides omega-3s and omega-6s in a ratio of 3:2, and approximately 60 percent of chia seed oil is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Chia is also claimed to be more easily digested than flax, which is currently a leading plant source of ALA.
In pre-Columbian times, chia seeds formed an important part of the diet of Aztec and Mayan populations, where chia was a major food crop grown in mountainous areas extending from west Central Mexico to Northern Guatemala.
Chia seeds were roasted and ground to form a meal called 'pinole', then mixed with water to form an oatmeal-like mixture, or made into cakes.
When mixed with water, chia solidifies into a gel-like substance, as a result of the fiber it contains. This gel can be added to beverages such as smoothies, juices and herbal teas.