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Canaryseed an Exciting New Food Ingredient

By Mitchell Japp, Provincial Specialist, Cereal Crops, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and Shawn Gibson, Manager, Research Unit, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

Canaryseed ready to harvest.
The market for canaryseed, normally grown as bird seed, has just gotten significantly larger due to the recent approval of some varieties for human consumption.

Most canaryseed grown in Saskatchewan is the hairy type – horribly itchy and not suitable for the food market – but Dr. Pierre Hucl, a crop breeder at the Crop Development Centre, had a vision for canaryseed as something more than feed for birds. He developed hairless (glabrous) varieties of canaryseed, eliminating the irritating silica hairs on the hulls.

With the support of the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund, the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan (CDCS) and Dr. Carol Ann Patterson of Pathfinders Research and Management Ltd., completed a research project to demonstrate the safety of canaryseed for human consumption. Working with the CDCS, Dr. Patterson led the research and prepared the submissions for Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration. In 2015, both regulatory agencies supported the submissions.

In Canada, dehulled, glabrous canaryseed has been approved as a novel human food – the first cereal crop to achieve this status. In the United States, dehulled, glabrous canaryseed has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status.

However, there is still work to be done. Canaryseed is gluten-free, but it contains a protein similar to an allergenic protein in wheat. When used as a food ingredient, a label will be required explaining that canaryseed may not be suitable for individuals with a wheat allergy, unless wheat is already an ingredient. Celiac sufferers will be able to consume canaryseed, while those with wheat allergies should avoid it until more is known about this potential allergenic protein. 

Canaryseed is a new food crop available for production, processing and marketing. It has excellent potential as a food ingredient with a wide range of applications in many products and markets.

For more information visit http://saskatchewan.ca/crops and select Specialty Crops or visit the CDCS website at http://canaryseed.ca

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