Seaweed could become a popular preservative in meat products and other foods, because of its ability to arrest the growth of pathogens, according to academics at Sheffield Hallam University.
Researcher Dr Andrew Fairclough said: "We were looking at the anti-microbial effects of arctic wrack seaweed granules and we were really quite surprised by how effective it was at very low levels in sausages. I was a bit sceptical at first but the numbers of micro-organisms you would usually see developing after a period of time in this kind of product were reduced by significant amounts. So, using seagreens could reduce spoilage and increase shelf-life."
The seaweed was provided by Sussex-based firm Seagreens, which has been supplying the olive green coloured granules as salt replacers and health supplements for several years.
Seagreens initially focused on a consumer product. But it was now targeting manufacturers looking for natural alternatives to salt, said founder Simon Ranger. "It's got far less sodium than salt, while retaining the same functionality in products like bread. But it's so much more than a salt replacer because it has a wide range of potential health benefits. There have been interesting studies on the effects of seaweed on the gut wall and the cardiovascular system, for example."
While the granules did not impart their colour to foods and gave baked products a "nice nutty taste", some firms remained wary, accepted Ranger. "Some still think of seaweed primarily as a texturiser [alginate] rather than a health ingredient."