VEVEY, SWITZERLAND – Adding flaxseed and its omega-3 fatty acids to cereal pieces while keeping adequate shelf life is the goal of a European patent application published Sept. 11.  Nestec S.A., a business unit of Vevey-based Nestle S.A., filed the patent.

Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid (A.L.A.), an omega-3 fatty acid, but flaxseed oil oxidizes easily and becomes rancid with an unpleasant odor. The patent seeks to avoid the shelf life problems. Under the patent, the cereal pieces may have a shelf life of three months, and six months or even nine months is possible.

The patent involves two aspects. In the first, a cereal piece comprises a cereal base and a flaxseed component. The cereal piece may have an A.L.A. content of 4 grams to 8 grams per 100 grams. The cereal piece may comprise a cereal core and a coating layer, which has flaxseed and a fat component. The piece also may be in the form of a cluster that has cereal particulates and flaxseed aggregated together with a binder component.

In the second aspect, a cereal product has cereal pieces, which include the cereal core and the coating layer with flaxseed and its A.L.A. The cereal product may have an overall A.L.A. content of 1 gram to 2.5 grams per 100 grams.

According to the patent, the cereal base may comprise cereals selected from wheat, corn, rice, oat, barley, rye, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, quinoa or various combinations of the grains. The cereal base may represent from 40% to 80% by weight of the cereal piece.

The flaxseed component may comprise comminuted flaxseed, such as crushed or ground flaxseed, as well as flaxseed extract. Comminuted flaxseed may be more advantageous because it is more easily digested. Preferably the flaxseed component represents from 20% to 45% of the weight of the cereal piece.

Preferably the fat component in the coating layer of the cereal piece comprises cocoa butter, vegetable oil. The coating layer also may comprise flavoring components, colorants, milk powder, probiotic, inactivated probiotic and dairy cultures.

When the cereal piece is in the form of a cluster, it comprises cereal particulates and flaxseed component aggregated together with a binder. A dry mix may represent 50% to 70% of the weight of the cluster. The binder may represent 30% to 50% of the weight.

Suitable binders include solutions or slurries prepared where gums, proteins and starches are used as the binder. Nutritive carbohydrate sweetening agents also may be used as the binder. The binder also may comprise a fat (oil and/or solid) component.

The cereal piece may have an antioxidant to reduce or prevent A.L.A. oxidation. The cereal product may be placed in a hermetically sealed packaged under a modified atmosphere. Various modified atmosphere may considered, such as nitrogen, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen-depleted air and combinations.