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Home » News

Hijiki and Arsenic Food Scare

Submitted by on August 6, 2010 – 5:29 pm2 Comments

 hijiki2-lgHijiki Sea Vegetable and Arsenic Content

 The Food Standards Agency has advised people not to eat a type of seaweed called hijiki because they believe it contains high levels of inorganic arsenic.  Inorganic arsenic is known to increase people’s risk of getting cancer.

Suma stocks a wide range of good quality Far Eastern Foods including many seaweeds.  Suma stocks one hijiki – Clearspring Hijiki 5x50g.  As Suma promotes wholesome, healthy and natural food we have contacted Clearspring to discuss the FSA advice, their statement is  below:

Hijiki – Clearspring’s Response to Re-issue of FSA Advice to Not Consume

  • On 5th August 2010 the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) posted a reminder on its website about its advice not to eat hijiki sea vegetable because of its high inorganic arsenic level content. The original advice was issued in July 2004 following a survey conducted by the FSA on the arsenic content of sea vegetables.
  • Hijiki (Hizikia fusiforme) is a brown sea vegetable growing wild around the coasts of Japan, Korea and China. It is a traditional food and has been sold and used as part of a balanced daily diet in Japan for centuries. Hijiki is known to be rich in dietary fibre and a source of calcium, iron, magnesium and essential trace minerals. Hijiki has been sold as a whole food in UK natural food stores for over 35 years and its culinary uses have been adopted in the West.
  • Hijiki naturally accumulates arsenic in both organic and inorganic forms. As part of our ISO22000 certified, HACCP-based Food Safety Management System we test the arsenic level in every batch of Hijiki that we import to ensure it does not exceed the limit that we have calculated to be safe using reference values published by international food safety agencies.
  • The total arsenic content found in the lot of Clearspring Hijiki that was the subject of the notification that triggered the re-issue of the advice was slightly above average and below our limit.
  • In line with the opinion issued by the Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare in response to the original FSA warning, we remain confident that hijiki can be consumed safely in small quantities when prepared appropriately. Our packs advice a maximum weekly consumption of 5g for adults. Furthermore, the cooking preparation steps of soaking, draining, rinsing and cooking we indicate are known to significantly reduce the arsenic content.
  • We closely follow regulatory developments to ensure we remain in compliance with food safety guidelines and regulations. The EFSA published its scientific opinion on arsenic in December 2009. It concluded that further research was necessary in order to establish guidelines on acceptable levels for specific food groups. Once these are available, we will ensure that our product complies with these.

Download this PDF written by Clearspring for more information.

2 Comments »

  • Otto says:

    I have been using hijiki seaweed for over 20 years and am quite concerned about the suggestions for preparation. Since hijiki is very light weight when dry are they speaking about 5gr dry weight or 5gr prepared (moist) weight. It makes a huge difference. Is all hijiki marketed worldwide imported from the same area of Asia and thus has the same inorganic arsenic levels? What percentage of inorganic arsenic levels are removed by the preparation method listed above?
    I appreciate your response to my questions.

  • Emma Stokes says:

    Hi Otto,

    Clearspring have sent us these answers to your questions:

    - The 5g we indicate on pack is indeed dry weight

    - Hijiki is harvested in Japan, China and Korea. We sell Japanese hijiki only and do not have data on the arsenic content of Chinese and Korean hijiki.

    - There are limited studies on the inorganic arsenic content of foods because there is no accepted methodology for measuring it. Japanese studies indicate that between 38 – 96% of inorganic arsenic can be removed by following traditional Japanese cooking preparations that include soaking and cooking.

    I hope this helps,

    Emma

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