Valensa International, an early pioneer in the production of chia omega-3 oil and chia flour announced that it has been granted a series of patents on its chia production technology and proprietary chia-based products.
U.S. 8,586,104 covers a method of manufacturing a two-year stable chia seed oil using supercritical fluid-based extraction followed by fractionation. U.S. 8,652,544 is a composition of matter patent, covering highly stable, zero rancidity defatted whole grain flour derived from whole ground chia seeds that includes 30 percent protein, 30-40 percent insoluble fiber and about two to three percent fructo-oligosaccharides. The patent also covers a broad range of formulated applications for the material. U.S. 8,574,637 is a composition of matter patent covering a stable supercritical CO2 extracted, fractionated chia seed oil and its combination with a number of other ingredients, including, but not limited to fish oil, krill oil, borage oil, olive oil and the addition of Astaxanthin. The awarding of this new intellectual property is recognition of the significant advances Valensa has made in chia processing and of the highly nutritious and safe ingredients it offers to formulators of human health products.
The announcement of these patents is set against a backdrop in which the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have issued salmonella-related food recall warnings for various products containing sprouted chia seeds and sprouted chia seed powder – an outcome not possible with Valensa’s approach to seed selection and processing.
According to Dr. Rudi E. Moerck, President and CEO of Valensa, "chia, while a natural material with excellent potential for human nutrition and health, is difficult to process and deliver in a stab cyNicgLCc4NDcyOScgLCle, efficacious form and presents potential safety risks when processed improperly. “Processing chia is inherently difficult, since chia seed cannot be conventionally washed and cleaned: when you introduce chia seeds to water, they form a mucilaginous complex. So, when companies use raw or even milled chia seeds, they run the risk of delivering a contaminated end product – which is what we are hearing about in the news lately,” he said. “Valensa has solved these issues by closely monitoring our chia seed raw materials and using proprietary milling and supercritical CO2 extraction processes that guarantee low bacterial counts. This approach has the advantage of oxygen free processing, which offers a more stable final product with a call our ChiaGold Stabilized Chia Seed Oil and ChiaMax Low-Fat Whole Grain ingredients ‘worry-free’ forms of chia because we have soltamination and rancidification that are possible with less technically sophisticated processing approaches – at the same time as we have made these ingredients with a consistent nutrient profile and easier to use in formulations,” he added.
Beyond safety considerations, approaches to processing chia result in dramatically different end product potentials. Studies have shown that unground raw chia seeds have essentially zero nutritional value (Monroy-Torres, et al 2008 and Nieman, et al 2012). Processing methods that unlock the nutritional benefits of chia seeds include milled or expeller pressed seeds, as well as Valensa’s patented supercritical CO2 extraction. According to Moerck, the use of milled or expeller pressed chia seeds is problematic because producers of milled seeds often add “expeller cake” that has deposits of surface oil that rapidly goes rancid. Oils based on this process also tend to become rancid more easily and have a short shelf life. Valensa supercritical CO2 extraction and its stabilization technology produces chia oil that has an unprecedented shelf life of two years and an equally stable ChiaMax flour with a nutritional profile that is superior to traditionally milled chia seeds. Comparing the two approaches, a one-ounce (30g) serving of Valensa’s ChiaMax has a fiber content of 15 grams, nine grams of excellent protein, one gram of omega-3 and only 70 calories. A similar serving of milled chia seeds contains 12 grams of fiber, six grams of protein, five grams of omega-3 and 140 calories. Moerck points out that five grams of omega-3 per day is substantially above the 1.6 g/day daily recommendation by the Institute of Medicine and is considered by most experts to be an excessive intake of omega-3 ALA.
According to Moerck, companies looking to take advantage of the chia boom need to be cautious in the types of chia ingredients they select for their branded products. “We are gratified to see that consumers are increasingly interested in the health potentials represented by chia. It is an amazing natural ingredient. But with growing interest comes a heightened responsibility to deliver safe chia products that also deliver on nutritional potential. Shortcuts in material selection and processing jeopardize not only the potential of this ingredient in the marketplace - it can have significant safety consequences for the people we aim to serve. With a sound scientific approach, we can have a win-win situation with chia,” he said.