Testing Our Seaweeds
Pacific Harvest offers some of the best seaweeds from various ecological regions of the world because different oceans (and latitudes) produce different sea vegetables, in the same way that land plants grow naturally in different parts of the world.
Our seaweeds are currently sourced from New Zealand, Europe (Ireland and France), the Atlantic Coast of Canada, Asia and South America.
Sea vegetables contain a wide array of major minerals and trace elements, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, lead, cadmium, aluminum, zinc, arsenic, and many more. Many of these, in the right quantities and forms (often "organic") are proven or estimated to be essential to human health. In the straight "inorganic" form and in excessive quantity, they can be toxic.
Although we check that our products are harvested in areas that are known to be ‘clean’, we can’t control what the ocean currents carry and winds deposit. Even though seaweeds have been safely consumed for centuries, we want to ensure the product we offer continues to be safe for consumption. So, we test our seaweeds to check they don’t contain harmful microbes and unhealthy levels of trace elements and contaminants.
All seaweeds we offer in our range have been tested in accordance with the ANZ Food Code, Schedule 19.
Inorganic arsenic* –the Australia and New Zealand Food Code (Schedule 19) specifies testing for inorganic arsenic, which must be less than 1 part per million, when tested at 85% hydration.
Heavy Metals – these elements are widely distributed through the planet’s oceans from both natural and human made sources. Although not specified in the code, we also routinely test for Cadmium, lead, mercury, tin and track these results over time.
Microbes - Our products are regularly screened for total bacterial counts; coliform bacteria in general and E. coli in specific; foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus; and mould & yeasts. Because seaweeds contain natural sea salts and are dried, they are generally safe from harmful bacteria and will often have an extended shelf life (some over 3 years if stored well).
We work with harvesters and enterprises who are ethical and collect sustainably. We don’t source any seaweeds which are even remotely exposed to radioactive contamination, so we don’t specifically test for radioactivity. Some of our harvesters will supply radioactivity test results on their Certificate of Analysis.
To understand how contamination spreads it helps to understand ocean currents and get a feel for how water circulates around our planet. Much of Fukushima’s contamination for example, was transported to the West coast of North America through the clockwise motion of the North Pacific Gyre. A this stage the south Pacific is protected by antagonising currents running along the equator and the anti-clockwise movement of the South Pacific Gyre.
Many harvesters will supply us with a Certificate of Analysis which certifies testing completed on their seaweed harvest. We also conduct our own testing, through accredited 3rd party labs who have equipment and expertise to test seaweeds. New Zealand has higher standards than other countries around inorganic arsenic so if we receive a batch that is borderline or questionable we will retest locally to ensure compliance with the NZ /AU Code.
We test batches regularly and will repeat tests (more frequently if required) in any and all of the below situations:
- We start to work with a new harvester
- The harvester has harvested in a new area
- We note the trend change over time
We track our test results over time to monitor trends.
Arsenic occurs in many forms in biological systems, but there are two basic types, inorganic and organic. When combined with carbon and hydrogen it is called organic arsenic. When combined with oxygen, chlorine or sulphur it is inorganic arsenic. The main ‘species’ of inorganic arsenic are Aresenate (As 5) and arsenite (As3). Arsenite is known to increase the risk of people getting cancer if regularly consumed.
Inorganic arsenic occurs naturally (20th most abundant element in the earth's crust), and has also been used in many industrial products such as pesticides, paint, and a host of manufactured chemical compounds. It is known to be toxic at substantial levels, causing skin lesions, organ damage, and promoting tumour growth, and, in acute overdose, is fatal.
Organic arsenic is potentially found in all living organisms. Plants absorb the mineral from the soil (or in the case of sea vegetables, from the ocean) and transform it into one of many forms of organic arsenic, possibly as a way to detoxify the arsenic.
Animal studies have shown arsenic to be essential to heart and skeletal muscle function in goats, and beneficial in small amounts to a variety of laboratory animals. It can be argued that humans have an essential need for trace amounts of arsenic, at an estimated requirement of 12 to 50 g (micrograms) per day. Scientists looking at seaweed consumption in Japan concluded that eating seaweed provided on average about 100 to 150Î¼g arsenosugars (a form of organic arsenic) per day. Even with this high intake, there are no reports that the Japanese population demonstrates symptoms of arsenic toxicity due to sea vegetables.
Many of the seaweeds we sell are wild harvested, uncultivated seaweeds. Naturally occurring fluctuations in the sea plants occur due to season, climate, tidal flow and time of harvest. The information we present on our website is believed to be accurate and reliable, but it represents composite averages, and is not guaranteed as a condition of sale. Pacific Harvest makes no warranty, either express or implied, and assumes no liability for this information or the products described.
We believe that traditional whole foods such as seaweeds are well suited for human nourishment. Seaweed is and has been consumed by people from 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. Dietary deficiencies and genetic variability, can also affect how well an individual processes metals, nutrients, or any other substance. Lastly, vocational or environmental exposure may impact one's body load of metals and effect metabolic capacities.