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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Brown algae

The GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Database allows access to opinions and conclusions from 115 SCOGS reports published between 1972-1980 on the safety of over 370 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) food substances. The GRAS ingredient reviews were conducted by the Select Committee in response to a 1969 White House directive by President Richard M. Nixon.

Brown algae

  • SCOGS-Report Number: 38*
  • Type Of Conclusion: 1
  • ID Code: 977161-38-8
  • Year: 1973
  • 21 CFR Section: 184.1120

SCOGS Opinion:

The term, "algae", is too ill-defined to be a meaningful term in the context of the GRAS list. The uncertainty with respect to the source and the nature of these materials makes it imprecise to attempt to evaluate the health aspects of the use of substances that simply bear the designation brown algae, red algae, or algae. This is particularly pertinent because of the variation in the chemical constituency of the several species of algae that have been reported to be used in food. In addition, the fact that there are no data available on the usage or consumption of algae, kelp and dulse, raises a question as to whether or not any of these materials are now being used in foods in the United States.

The Select Committee believes that the extent of actual use of algae, kelp, and dulse in food should be ascertained. If they are found to be used to any considerable extent, it would be advisable to identify them more definitely for regulatory purposes. Further, in view of the probable absorption of metals by algae from polluted waters, permissible levels of mercury and other heavy metals should be specified for the materials so identified.

However, within this context, and in the light of available biological data, an interim conclusion can be drawn. The biological information available with respect to algae, dulse, and kelp and certain substances derived from them, is limited to studies on laminine monocitrate and laminarin sulfate, and to feeding trials involving fodder containing dehydrated algal meals and dried seaweed prepared from several species of brown and red algae. These investigations, involving several animals species have revealed no evidence of adverse effects from the feeding of the algal species tested or their derived products at levels that are orders of magnitude above those presumed to be used in foods in this country as ingredients of spices, seasonings, and flavorings.

The Select Committee has weighed the foregoing and concludes that: There is no evidence in the available information on the brown algae (Laminaria sp. and Nereocystis sp.), also referred to as kelp, and the red algae, Porphyra sp. and Rhodymenia palmata (L.) Grev., also referred to as dulse, and the materials derived from these species, that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect, a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that now seem to be current or that might reasonably be expected in future if their use is confined to ingredients of spices, seasonings, and flavorings as is now stated in the Code of Federal Regulations.

*Complete reports containing details of the safety studies that formed the basis of the opinions and conclusions and are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161 (703) 605-6000.