“Some of our very big customers are extremely aware of this and are ready to back the technology to not put the public at risk, but there’s still some misunderstanding,” Brown told FoodNavigator-USA. “If you’re not using a kill step in your process, you should not be using a raw grain. In dairy that’s obvious to people, but in grains, it appears to be less so.”
Flax and chia are becoming increasingly coveted by mainstream consumers, due to their powerhouse nutritional profiles. Chia is packed with protein, fiber, calcium, the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid alpha linoleic acid and antioxidants. Flax, also high in protein, fiber and omega-3s, is also linked to lower cholesterol.
But recent pathogen outbreaks in raw chia powder are raising concerns over unsterilized chia in particular, as a recent Salmonella outbreak linked to chia powder sickened more than 50 people across the US and Canada, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Earlier this year, Glanbia opened a food-grade processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where it produces flaxseed and chia ingredients, along with other ancient grains using a third party-verified heat treatment system and patented cleaning and milling process.
Part of the challenge, Brown says, is balancing minimal processing and food safety. Unsurprisingly, she says, it starts at the source, ensuring a good supply of raw materials—though this can be particularly difficult with ancient grains.
“It starts with how it’s handled at the farm, field and collection level," she said. "This can be challenging with ancient grains because collection occurs on a small basis so we need reliable sources in South America where our chia comes from and India where our amaranth comes from. If the grains are managed properly there, it’s easier to manage them the right way through supply chain.”