Last updated on 4 August 2010

Hijiki: your questions answered

Hijiki is a variety of seaweed harvested mainly from the seas off Japan and Korea. This type of seaweed is seldom used in food, and is easy to distinguish from other seaweeds because of its distinctive black and shredded appearance.

  • What is hijiki used for?

    It is used mostly in traditional Japanese restaurants, mainly as an appetiser or starter, but not in sushi. Nor is it used in Chinese restaurants. Hijiki is also sold for use in some soups, salads and vegetable dishes.

  • Where is hijiki sold?

    Besides minor use in Japanese restaurants, hijiki is found in shops specialising in products from Asia and the Far East and can sometimes be found in the specialist food sections of some supermarkets and department stores. This seaweed is sold in packets weighing from 12 to over 100 grams, and some may have recipes on the packets.

  • What is the FSA doing?

    The FSA is repeating its advice to people not to eat hijiki. This follows a notification from the European Commission on a particular brand of hijiki, Clearspring, but FSA advice relates to all hijiki seaweed.

  • Am I at risk if I have eaten hijiki?

    Inorganic arsenic, which can occur naturally in some foods, is known to add to the risk of people developing cancer. International experts say that the intake of this type of arsenic in food should be reduced so that it is as low as is practical.

    If you have eaten hijiki occasionally it is unlikely that you will have raised your risk significantly of getting cancer. However, the Agency is advising that you stop eating it.

  • Are children and babies at more risk from consuming hijiki?

    No, the risks are similar for everyone.

  • What about other seaweed?

    The FSA carried out a survey in 2004, which looked at levels of inorganic arsenic in four other types of seaweed: arame, kombu, nori and wakame. None of these were found to have any inorganic arsenic, whereas all the hijiki did contain it.