Other important food hazards to be considered are lead and mercury, Bacillus spp in heat-treated products, kainic acid in dulse, and allergens. Several other possible hazards are also discussed in this report.
There is currently a shortage of data on food hazards in seaweed, and this should be kept in mind. Knowledge concerning food safety in seaweed is increasing, but more data is needed to ensure proper risk assessments. The type, level and ranking of food hazards in seaweed in Nordic countries may change in the future as research produces new data, and conditions may be altered by climate change, such as increased sea temperature. New seaweed species may also be introduced into Nordic waters.
Variations in levels of heavy metals and iodine within and between seaweed species
The levels of heavy metals and iodine vary greatly between and within species, and can be affected by age, growing conditions, and processing methods.
The data on iodine, cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead, and mercury in seaweed from Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden confirm great variabilities both between and within species. Differences between species seem to be quite similar in the Nordic countries.
Despite the shortage of data available for this report, there is enough to at least give an indication of which species present the greatest challenges in terms of heavy metals and iodine in Nordic seaweed production.
In general, the brown algae have the highest iodine content, with the highest levels found in the species sugar kelp, winged kelp, oarweed, and tangle. Red and green algae species have lower levels of iodine than the brown algae, except for the red algae wrack siphon weed. Oarweed can have exceptionally high levels of inorganic arsenic, while cadmium levels are highest in several brown and red algae.
Legislation and future considerations
The current status of EU legislation regarding food safety aspects is discussed. Legislation on foodstuffs other than seaweed is presented to illustrate existing legislation on food safety hazards. It is also emphasised that legislation applying to a specific foodstuff is not directly applicable for other types of foodstuffs.
Regardless of the current limitations of legislation specific to seaweed, the general requirements in EU food legislation apply for all types of foodstuffs, including seaweed.