Should we be concerned about eating seaweed?

Seaweed is an important multi-use product, including for human consumption. Now the FAO/WHO expert committee raised concerns about chemical hazards in seaweed.
Seaweed salad
18 October, 2022
By Bert Popping

Seaweed is a multi-use product. And we reported about some of the many uses previously. One was the reduction of greenhouse gases by adding a seaweed component to cows’ feed, which in turn will reduce methane production.  Another use is to feed salmon. Not directly, but via ragworms that themselves feed on seaweed and are subsequently fed to salmon. And, of course, seaweed is also eaten in many countries. To name just one example, the Nori rolls that many of us know from Japanese sushi is made from seaweed. Now the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Has sounded a warning with regard to the use of seaweed as food.  In a joint statement of FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO), they stated that after reviewing the food safety information currently available about seaweed harvested from both wild stocks and aquaculture, they recommend further discussion as well as international guidance. The report published highlights that hat morbidities and mortalities linked to the consumption of seaweeds are rare, but cautions that the limited data raise concerns that certain hazards may be present in seaweed. Chemicals of concern in seaweed for human consumption include chemical hazards such as heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, radionuclides and pesticide residues; microbiological hazards; physical hazards and allergens.

The experts recommended the collection and evaluation of seaweed consumption data at national and regional levels, the monitoring of seaweed food and feed products for food safety hazards; and a risk assessment/risk profiling of the relevant seaweed hazard groupings to ascertain their public health significance.

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