New Zealand Food Safety is advising people not to consume a seaweed tonic being sold in glass bottles.

There have been no reports of associated illness to date from the product labeled “NZ Focuidan.” It has also been found with limited or no identifying labeling or branding and in various packaging sizes and weights.

Authorities said they were trying to remove the product from sale and urged people not to consume the drink and to throw it away as it comes from an unregulated seller of seaweed tonics.

“The tonic presents a concerning food safety risk because it has not been through the required checks and balances to make sure it is safe to consume,” said Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety’s deputy director-general.

“Because this product has not been registered under the Food Act, consumers cannot be certain that risks have been properly identified and managed. Available evidence suggests the seaweed tonic has been available for sale through informal sellers and local markets.”

Seaweed can contain chemical hazards such as inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

“NZ Focuidan is made with seaweed, which can be high in iodine. Without proper controls, treatments and dosage information, iodine can be dangerous, particularly to those with thyroid conditions. The product also makes concerning prohibited therapeutic claims and consumers should not be led by these claims,” said Arbuckle.

The product is believed to be fermented and the alcohol content is unknown.

In other news, data from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) shows there were 38 cases of cryptosporidiosis in July 2023, compared with 22 for the same month in 2022. Four people were hospitalized. Of the cases where risk factor information was recorded, nine of 18 had contact with farm animals.

Forty Salmonella isolates were confirmed, down from 45 in July 2022. Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Brandenburg, Salmonella Enteritidis sequence type (ST) 11, Monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium ST34, and Salmonella Typhimurium ST568 were the most common.

There were 16 confirmed cases of shigellosis in July, compared with five for this month in 2022. Three people were hospitalized. All 16 patients had information on travel recorded and 12 were overseas during the incubation period. Three mentioned Indonesia and Fiji and Samoa were reported twice each. Of the four cases with no overseas travel, three had contact with other symptomatic people.

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