Flax firms lobby for whole-grain status

Flax producers in the US and Canada are preparing to petition the FDA to get flax included in the FDA's recently published whole-grains guidelines.

Flax, along with other seed oils such as sunflower and canola, as well as legumes such as soy, was omitted from the guidelines because the FDA did not consider it as meeting its whole-grain criteria.

Flax producers feel they have been miscast because, unlike most other seed oils and legumes, flax is commonly used with all its component parts intact when sold as a commodity such as flour.

In the FDA definition published in February, whole grains are defined as those that "include cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked fruit of the grains whose principal components — the starchy endosperm, germ and bran — are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact grain."

"Flax is different because it is ground as a whole grain and sold as a whole-fat flax flour," Sean Moriarty, president of Wisconsin-based ingredients supplier Enreco told FF&N. "It meets the FDA whole-grains definition. It is similar to the other cereal grains and has a similar make-up to corn, and that has been accepted even though it is a seed oil like flax."

Moriarty said flax's chances of gaining the new status would be boosted by its high fibre and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) content, two nutritional areas the FDA had been promoting. "The FDA has come out strongly in support of omega-3s and ALA, and flax is the richest grain source of ALA."

Leading flaxseed supplier, Manitoba-based Pizzey's Milling, is another company that will be petitioning the FDA for change. Communications manager, Julie Pizzey, agreed the functional properties of flaxseed should aid its cause with the FDA.

"It can fill the fibre need the FDA and other experts?see?in the American diet. It is important to note that the FDA has not specifically excluded flaxseed, only oilseeds, so we are hopeful the FDA will differentiate between the health benefits of flaxseed and the oilseed category as a whole," she said. "Since flaxseed does in fact contain the essential components of a whole grain, it is important for both the FDA and the Whole Grains Council to recognise it as such. Many producers are already using flaxseed in their formulations, so it would be helpful for them to have the option of making this powerful, timely label claim in addition to the Nutrient Content and Structure Function claims currently allowed for flaxseed."

Grains that have been accepted under the guidelines include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, corn, millet, rice, rye, oats, sorghum, wheat and wild rice.

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