Testing Seaweed for Quality
Our sea vegetables are tested annually following each harvest season and throughout the year to ensure they're free of food pathogens and dangerous levels of naturally occurring or human origin contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum residues, and radiation.
Why it's Tested
Although our sea vegetables are harvested from wild and remote reaches in the Gulf of Maine and the North Atlantic, we can’t control what the ocean currents may carry and the winds may deposit. And even though seaweeds have been safely consumed for centuries, we want to make sure this continues to be true today.
What it's Test For
Our products are regularly screened for total bacterial counts; coliform bacteria and pathogenic E. coli; foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus; and mold & yeasts. Microbial test results aren't posted on the website for the simple reason that if we found harmful microbes in any one of our products, we wouldn’t sell it! Because dried sea vegetables contain natural sea salts and have very little moisture, they are inhospitable for bacteria and they have an extended shelf life. Microbial testing is done annually and repeated throughout the year for popular products.
Widely used in agriculture and by property owners, these compounds are of concern because they can appear as residues on foods. Our Suppliers use a screening protocol endorsed by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for ensuring produce meets the ‘certified organic’ standard for pesticide and herbicide residues. This testing is done annually by our suppliers and at random by their certifying agency (OCIA).
Referred to as Polychlorinated Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). This screen verifies our seaweed is free of gasoline and oil residues coming from surface runoff or boats. This testing is done annually
Our suppliers labs use gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to detect and quantify trace levels (<1 part per million) of cadmium, lead, mercury, and inorganic forms of arsenic in our seaweed. These elements are widely distributed in the world’s oceans from both natural and man-made sources. This testing is done annually
Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, customers became concerned that even seaweed as far away from the disaster as Maine could have become contaminated, and our suppliers have been annually testing ever since.
How It's Tested
Testing is done every winter after the harvest has been dried and stored. They take care to collect composite samples representative of each species, growing area, and form (leaf or milled). They don’t test every single product each year, but they do test a representative of every species and growing area. For example, they may test dulse flakes but not powdered dulse, because the two products come from the same species and area. In this case, test results for dulse flakes can be applied to the powdered form.
Testing is done through accredited third-party labs. It’s important to understand the nature and substance of seaweed to accurately analyze it. Their contract labs use analytical methods refined over many decades by scientists from around the world, and they're validated by the EPA, FDA and global certification organizations before being approved for food testing. They work closely with their testing labs to remain current with the latest changes and refinements to test methods. Some of their testing labs include: Katahdin Analytical, Northeast Laboratories, Brooks Applied Labs, and eurofins.
Seaweed is a traditional whole food that's been eaten by people around the world for many thousands of years with healthy results. However, every person is unique and we are unable to predict your body's response. There may be elements of these plants not suitable for your particular biochemistry or condition. Only you can determine what's best for you, in consultation with your healthcare practitioner. The seaweeds we sell are wild harvested, uncultivated marine algae. Naturally occurring fluctuations in the sea plants occur due to season, climate, tidal flow and time of harvest. The information we present on this website is believed to be accurate and reliable, but the testing is not carried out by 92MNRLS— it represents composite averages — and it is not guaranteed as a condition of sale. Maine Coast Sea Vegetables makes no warranty, either express or implied, and assumes no liability for this information or the products described.
Heavy Metals in Seaweed
Customers may wonder why our suppliers choose to test our Certified Organic sea vegetables for heavy metals, or why some of our products bear a "Proposition 65" warning about lead and cadmium. The reason for both is that seaweed is highly effective at bioaccumulating minerals, metals and other elements from seawater. In addition to accumulating essential mineral nutrients, seaweed also accumulates certain heavy metals that are harmful when the body absorbs them in excess.
Metals occur naturally in the ocean due to weathering of the earth’s crust. These metals are widely disbursed, even in the remote and wild areas where our seaweed is harvested far from big cities and industry. Although Organic Certification ensures our seaweed isn't harvested near local sources of contamination such as boat marinas or municipal outfalls, it can't guarantee purity.
Because we know that heavy metals are likely to be found in seaweed, our suppliers test to verify they're not present above harmful levels. We disclose the test results so that customers can make an informed choice based on their own unique health needs and perception of risk. We ourselves frequently enjoy eating sea vegetables (often every day!) because we believe their many health and nutrition benefits far outweigh any risk posed by the low levels of heavy metals they contain. Scientists have studied this topic for many years. This research establishes safety thresholds for heavy metals based on consumption patterns, examines the question of bioavailabilty (not everything we eat is absorbed), and describes how seaweed is used for bioremediation because it contains polysaccharides that chelate (bind to) heavy metals, which is why some say it can be eaten to detoxify heavy metals.
Inorganic arsenic | Cadmium | lead | parts per million (2019-2020)
(0.39) (0.43) (0.82) Irish Moss Coarse Chondrus crispus
(0.32) (1.26) (0.9) Bladderwrack Granules Fucus vesiculosis
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