EUROPE – A collaborative Nordic initiative that began in 2020 with the aim of creating a unified Nordic approach to seaweed food safety risk management has just come to an end, and its final report focuses on the chemical and microbiological risks connected to the commodity.
Representatives from the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden who oversee food safety wrote the report.
The paper claims that despite being the largest aquaculture product in the world, seaweed still does not meet any international requirements for food safety, such as the Codex Alimentarius regulations or guidelines.
Furthermore, there is a lack of specialized legislation governing the food safety of seaweed in the EU, and little is known about the possible risks and advantages of this product for human health.
In order to address these variances in tradition, food culture, production techniques, seawater quality, and types of seaweed species employed, the current study set out to build a standard Nordic approach to seaweed food safety.
Iodine, cadmium, and inorganic arsenic are the three most important food hazards that are pertinent to seaweed harvested in Nordic countries.
Although iodine is a vital element, too little or too much of it can have negative health effects.
Iodine is categorized as a hazard in the report because some food products made from seaweed contain incredibly high levels of the element.
Lead, mercury, Bacillus in heat-treated products, kainic acid in dulse (sea lettuce flakes), and allergies are some of the other significant food hazards mentioned in the report.
Iodine and heavy metal concentrations can differ significantly between and among seaweed species, depending on factors like age, growing conditions, and processing techniques.
In general, brown algae have the highest iodine content in the Nordic countries, with the highest concentrations being found in the species sugar kelp, winged kelp, oarweed, and tangle.
Except for red algae wrack siphon weed, green and red algae species contain less iodine than brown algae.
While numerous brown and red algae have the highest concentrations of cadmium, oarweed has the highest levels of inorganic arsenic.
There is presently no standardized food safety legislation on seaweed in the EU, hence the report’s authors urgently urge its development.
In such legislation, seaweed should be classified as a specific group of food, with subgroups for different seaweed species.
Although more research is necessary, the Nordic report can act as a guide for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as the industry.