Consumers advised not to eat hijiki seaweed

Posted by Josette Dunn on 13th August 2010

The UK Food Standards Agency is reminding people of its advice not to eat a type of seaweed called hijiki because it contains high levels of inorganic arsenic. Inorganic arsenic is known to increase people’s risk of getting cancer.This reminder follows a notification from the European Commission to the Agency about a brand of hijiki seaweed, Clearspring, which was found to contain high levels of arsenic. The Agency is advising people to avoid all hijiki on sale in the UK.

We are advising people not to eat hijiki seaweed and to choose alternative types of seaweed instead. However, if you have eaten hijiki occasionally it is unlikely that you have raised your risk of developing cancer significantly.

The Agency also carried out a survey in 2004, which found that hijiki contains inorganic arsenic – a form that occurs naturally in some foods. The survey also tested arame, kombu, nori and wakame but no inorganic arsenic was found in these types of seaweed.

Hijiki is a distinctive, almost black, shredded seaweed, that is used mainly as an appetiser or starter in some Japanese restaurants. It is not used in sushi or in Chinese restaurants.

Hijiki is also sold for use in soups and salads and some vegetarian and vegan dishes where seaweed is an ingredient. It is sometimes found in the specialist food sections of some supermarkets and department stores and in health food shops and specialist shops selling Asian and Far Eastern food.

The Agency has contacted the European Commission to establish if they intend to take action on hijiki, which is also on sale across the European Union (EU).