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Sea Moss

What is sea moss?

Sea moss typically refers to specific types of algae or seaweed that are naturally rich in certain nutrients, including folate, vitamin K, iron, iodine, magnesium, and calcium. Chondrus Crispus (commonly referred to as Irish sea moss), Gracilaria (commonly known as Jamaican sea moss) and Eucheuma Cottonii (commonly referred to as gusô) are several types of sea moss used in food production. Sea Moss is found along the coasts of the Atlantic, primarily between North America and Europe, in the warmer waters of Asia, South America, and Africa and some parts of the Caribbean. The plant also produces a thickening agent called carrageenan.

What is sea moss gel?

Sea moss gel is made by adding water to sea moss and blending it together. Some ingredients derived from some sea moss species are approved food additives or are generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
•    Carrageenan as a stabilizer, emulsifier, or thickener in food - 172.620
•    Chondrus extract as a stabilizer in food - 182.7255  
•    Fucoidan concentrate as an ingredient in various food categories - GRN 661
•    Cetraria islandica for flavoring alcoholic beverages only - 172.510

Do sea moss producers need to acquire a license/registration to process and package their products?

A sea moss processor who manufactures and distributes their products or a warehouser of sea moss products must be registered and inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Food Safety. 
A sea moss processor who only sells their products as a food directly to the end consumer will need to obtain a retail food license from their local health department. 

What are the requirements for the labeling of sea moss?

A sea moss processor is required to label all their products properly, which includes the following information on the label of each unit of food product manufactured, distributed or packaged for the consumer:
1.    Statement of Identity - the name of the product
2.    Net Quantity of Contents - the net weight, in both U.S. Customary System and International System
3.    Ingredient List - ingredients of the sea moss product, listed in descending order of predominance by weight
4.    Statement of Responsibility - the name and address of the business

If nutrient content claims (i.e., low fat, salt free, etc.) or health claims (i.e., may reduce heart disease) are made, the product must bear all required nutritional information in the form of the Nutrition Facts panel.  All labeling components are to comply with 21 CFR Part 101, Food Labeling.  The FDA Food Labelling Guide is an excellent resource for the proper labeling of food products.  The web address for the FDA Food Labelling Guide is:

Sea moss products cannot claim to diagnosis, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease; those are considered drug claims and would not be permitted on a food, cosmetic or dietary supplement. 

What are some of the hazards associated with sea moss and sea moss gel?

Sea moss, like other sea algae and seaweed, can accumulate heavy metals. This is largely determined by the location where the sea moss is grown and is a result of polluted areas where the sea moss is harvested. It is the responsibility of the processor to determine if they require a control program for sea moss to address the heavy metals hazard. The sea moss harvester should be able to provide information on this hazard (e.g., third party or governmental water quality monitoring data from the harvest area(s), water and/or sea moss testing results over time, etc.) that the processor could use as part of their support. If the processor is unable to obtain appropriate information from the sea moss harvester, they may consider procuring an alternative supplier who can provide such information or contacting a process authority who is able to assess the literature pertaining to the sea moss and public/local records related to sea water quality in the specific harvest area(s). 

Sea moss gel has the potential for microbial pathogens such C. Botulinum and Vibrio species. Also, like sea moss, depending on the harvest site, heavy metals may be a hazard as well. These potential hazards need to be evaluated by the processor to determine the risk.