This new process guarantees a 5-log reduction of pathogens, which means lowering the number of microorganisms by 100,000-fold. The specification will be available to the company’s full range of chia ingredients.
According to Sandra Gillot, CEO of Benexia, this kill step is the first that was designed specifically for chia seeds.
“The parameters are different in maize, soy, almonds, or nuts,” she told NutraIngredients-USA. “Chia is a tiny seed that comes from the field, where it is exposed to all kinds of contamination, and does not tolerate any cleansing or high heating process because of its delicate omega-3 content and the mucilage that surrounds the seed when the seed gets wet.”
Details on the process are confidential, but the company says that the unique process is a “chemical and irradiation free thermal process.”
Validating the process, including chia in more products
Benexia hired Covance to help validate the parameters in time and temperature that would kill the most aggressive salmonella in chia.
To make sure no salmonella comes in contact with Benexia's labs, it was Covance that added salmonella to some chia seeds in its lab and experimented with the parameters set up by Benexia, Gillot explained.
“Nobody had this data on how to kill the most aggressive salmonella in chia,” she added. “Right now the standards are being defined by the suppliers and the customers. We’re hoping we can create a standard for chia seed that is better than what is now on the market.”
Target customers for this new specification, Gillot said, were the 'big companies' that have very stringent food safety requirements when selecting products.
"Now that we can serve big, big companies that were asking for it, we can grow the industry, because we will be able to put chia in more products. It's not only for us, but our competition as well. It's a breakthrough for the whole industry."