The effect of algae (nori and spirulina) and fermented plant foods on the hematological status of vitamin B-12-deficient children was evaluated. Although rising plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations in children consuming only plant foods (0.1-2.7 micrograms vitamin B-12/d) indicated that the vitamin B-12 was absorbed, elevated baseline values of mean corpuscular volume (MCV) further deteriorated. In contrast, MCV improved in children receiving fish containing 0.15-0.5 microgram vitamin B-12/d or a vitamin B-12 supplement. Further studies on the specificity of current vitamin B-12 assays are warranted. It seems unjustified to advocate algae and other plant foods as a safe source of vitamin B-12 because its bioavailability is questionable.