Written Q&A to EU Commission – Seaweed as food

That is an intriguing topic and to be honest I don’t know much about it. If any readers could give more details I’d be very happy to read. But I know lovely recipes of the Japanese cuisine tradition: I can’t eat my sushi without a side of spicy wakame salad!

Question for written answer E-001838/13
to the Commission
Hans-Peter Martin (NI)
(20 February 2013)

Subject: Use of seaweeds as food

Scientists see edible seaweeds, in particular wracks, as a potential environmentally friendly and cost-effective option
for producing nutritious food. According to media reports, the cultivation of brown seaweeds in particular is
increasing in the EU.

1. Does the Commission have any data on how many tonnes of seaweed are (a) produced in the EU, or (b) imported into the EU each year for use as food or food supplements?
2. Is there currently any regulation at EU level of (a) the cultivation, (b) the import, and (c) the sale of seaweeds or seaweed products as food?
3. In what way, if any, does the Commission support research and development in the area of the cultivation or processing of seaweed?
4. In what way, if any, does the Commission promote the cultivation or marketing of seaweed as food?
5. In what way, if any, does the Commission promote campaigns to inform citizens of the use of seaweed as food or to promote its consumption?

Answer given by Ms Damanaki on behalf of the Commission
(16 May 2013)

Statistics are available for imports and exports of seaweed and other algae (1) but this does not allow to distinguish those seaweeds used for food (2).

The Commission is aware of traditional collection along the coastline and the more recent interest in seaweed aquaculture. In 2011, total imports amounted to 73.4 million tonnes with a value of EUR 60.7 million and exports were valued at EUR 15.6 million. The biggest imports come from Iceland, but the highest value imports come from Philippines, China, Chile and Japan. The main exporters were UK and Germany.

Seaweed production is covered by the EU organic legislation (3) and the Commission has proposed to the Codex Alimentarius to include them in Codex Guideline for organically produced foods (4). The ERDF (5) is funding the creation of a European network of seaweed (6) stakeholders to produce a best practice model of sustainable commercial utilization of seaweed in Europe.

Research on algae is well covered under the 7th Research Framework Programme in particular research and innovation on micro and macro algae biorefineries as promising sources of high added-value products (7). One large topic of the last call of FP7 — Theme 2 Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and Aquaculture addresses particularly this subject with a total EU contribution of EU 20 million (evaluation ongoing).

The reform of the common fisheries policy includes the promotion of aquaculture through strategic guidelines, multiannual national plans and common objectives.

The Commission does not carry out European-wide communication and promotion campaigns on seaweed as food. However, Member States may support promotion activities under the European Fisheries Fund (8) and the development of sustainable aquaculture including edible seaweeds.

* * * * *

⋅1∙ Under CN code 1212 20 00.
⋅2∙ Novel foods or novel food ingredients from species of algae that were not on the market (before 15 May 1997, entry into force of Regulation (EC) No 258/97) require a safety assessment and eventually authorisation under the regulation before they may be placed on the market.
⋅3∙ Council Regulation 834/2007 and Commission Regulation 888/2008.
⋅4∙ GL 32 1999.
⋅5∙ European Regional Development Fund.
⋅6∙ www.netalgae.eu
⋅7∙ Feed proteins, polymers, pharmaceuticals, high value oils and chemicals, bioactive compounds, colorants and biofuels.
⋅8∙ Council Regulation (EC) No1198/2006 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 498/2007.

2 thoughts on “Written Q&A to EU Commission – Seaweed as food

  1. Sorry for being a spoiler again but you should be aware that seaweeds are excellent in soaking up metals from their environment. Of course it means that they will contain high levels of essential minerals which are good for you. But unfortunately they also accumulate heavy metals. You could easily exceed your TDI of arsenic, cadmium or lead. Particularly problematic is hijiki imported from Japan. Wakame might be fine as long as it is not consumed every day.

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