Toxicity of so-called edible hijiki seaweed (Sargassum fusiforme) containing inorganic arsenic

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2012 Jul;63(2):291-7. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


The UK Food Standards Agency and its counterparts in other countries have warned consumers not to eat hijiki (Sargassum fusiforme; synonym Hizikia fusiformis), a Sargasso seaweed, because it contains large amounts of inorganic arsenic. We investigated dietary exposure of hijiki in weaning male F344/N rats fed an AIN-93G diet supplemented with 3% (w/w) hijiki powder for 7 weeks, compared with those fed only an AIN-93G diet. Body weight, body temperature, blood and tissue arsenic concentrations, plasma biochemistry and hematological parameters were measured. We found that feeding rats a 3% hijiki diet led to a marked accumulation of arsenic in blood and tissues, and evoked a high body temperature and abnormal blood biochemistry including elevated plasma alkaline phosphatase activity and inorganic phosphorus, consistent with arsenic poisoning. These findings should prompt further investigations to identify the health hazards related to consumption of hijiki and related Sargassum species in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Arsenic Poisoning / blood
  • Arsenic Poisoning / etiology*
  • Arsenicals* / blood
  • Arsenicals* / isolation & purification
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Dietary Supplements / standards
  • Dietary Supplements / toxicity*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Male
  • Powders
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Sargassum / chemistry*
  • Seaweed / chemistry*
  • Toxicity Tests, Subchronic


  • Arsenicals
  • Powders