The JRC (or Joint Research Centre), a scientific department within the European Commission published a report this month that lists all the seaweed that can be used as ingredients or food supplements within the European Union (JRC Publications Repository – Algae as food and food supplements in Europe (europa.eu)).
One of the key points for the development of the edible seaweed market in Europe concerns the regulatory status of seaweed and its conditions of use. Seaweed falls within the scope of the ‘novel food’ regulation (EU 2015/2283) and those which were not traditionally consumed in Europe before 1997 are considered as ‘novel foods’ and therefore require authorisation applications.
To find information about the seaweed authorised in food, up until now stakeholders had to consult several sources of information that were sometimes not exhaustive:
- the novel food catalogue EU Novel food catalogue (v.1.2) (europa.eu) which lists the ingredients of which novel food status has already been assessed. It essentially lists the products whose history of consumption as a food or food supplement has been established.
- the European Union list of novel foods: Union list of novel foods (europa.eu)
- member countries’ official and non-official lists
- the CEVA (Algae Technology and Innovation Centre) regulatory summary on the status of edible seaweed in France and in Europe!
To make the status of seaweed more legible for all the stakeholders in the industry, whether in terms of food or food supplements, the JRC made a compilation of all this data. The report includes an update of the taxonomic names and enables us to know which seaweed can be used and for which applications.
So what’s new in concrete terms? How much seaweed can be used in food?
It is always difficult to give precise figures because sometimes genera are authorised and sometimes more specific names of species. And the recent changes in the seaweed taxonomy sometimes make it difficult to map the species consumed before 1997.
Overall, 39 different genera of seaweed to date can be used in food in Europe, with a specification of the species authorised in most cases: 39 genera and/or species of macro-algae and 22 genera and/or species of micro-algae.
Note that the uses may be different:
- 27 genera and/or species can only be used in food supplements
- 5 genera and/or species can only be used as ingredients in food products
- and 29 genera and/or species can be used as dietary supplements or ingredients.
We are far from the first opinion of the French Conseil Supérieur d’Hygiène Publique (Public Health Board) in 1990 which authorised a dozen seaweed/micro-algae in human food as condiments or vegetables.
Let us recall all the same that this technical report has no legal value at this stage. But we hope that this painstaking work will enable us to have an exhaustive update of the European novel food catalogue in future.
More info on the regulation on the blog of ceva.