Seaweed Food Safety Knowledge is Limited; FAO, WHO Call for Research, Regulation


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released a report that reviews the current available information about the food safety of seaweed, both harvested from the wild and produced through aquaculture. The Report of the Expert Meeting on Food Safety for Seaweed—Current Status and Future Perspectives was compiled during a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Seaweed Safety in October 2021.

The report raises a concern with the limited existing data on seaweed food safety, suggesting that the commodity may carry certain chemical, microbiological, physical, and allergen risks. The report recommends several actions to increase the safety of seaweed consumption while collecting more information about the product, aiming to support the development of appropriate Codex Alimentarius guidelines and regional regulations.

The consumption of seaweed has grown rapidly in recent years, according to the report. In 2018, global seaweed production exceeded 32 million tons, tripling from about 11 million tons in 2000. Since seaweed is a promising sustainable food crop, the report notes, the expansion of using seaweed as a food has been suggested. However, seaweed is known to accumulate hazardous substances from the environment, which may pose risks to food safety. Additionally, despite the increasing global seaweed trade, there is no Codex standard or guidelines that specifically address the commodity’s food safety, and national and regional regulatory harmonization is lacking.

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Food Safety Magazine, 06-10-22