What Is “Fake” Sea Moss? How to Spot “Fake Sea Moss? Is it a Real Issue?
Spotting “fake” or pool grown sea moss is really quite easy once you know how. Here I’ll walk you through how to spot pool grown sea moss with four simple tips. The main things I look for on the surface is the presence of large grains of processed salt, a lack of imperfections that occur naturally, and signs of chemical interference.
Before we get into more detail I want to eliminate some of the popular beliefs around fake, or pool grown, sea moss.
Where did the Fake Sea Moss story come from?
Going back to 2011, Dr. Sebi took the stage and addressed an audience in the Bahamas .
He spoke of the challenges of fake sea moss, and how to spot what he referred to as fake sea moss. This was quite some time ago, but now with sea moss popularly on the rise, you’ll find videos and articles popping up everywhere with information that is mostly inaccurate.
How Much Sea Moss is Fake or Grown in Pools?
There is a lot of truth about the quality of pool grown sea moss. When it is grown in pools it is not able to get the benefits of the rocks and the natural ebb and flow of the ocean.
This means that the exposure to naturally occurring minerals is more or less eliminated. The sea moss is restricted to whatever happens to be added to the tank or pool. These tend to be manufactured fertilizers in some cases. In other cases, a mineral dense substrate is added to the bottom of the pool.
You may have read about sea moss farms replicating the motion of the ocean with machinery. Sebi spoke of them being able to grow crops of sea moss faster in tanks in Boston than in the ocean.
Growing sea moss this way is possible to do, and it is applied in some areas. But when compared to traditional sea moss farming that takes place in the open ocean, it is a comparatively unsustainable and really expensive process.
The cost of running a system like that is typically not profitable when compared to what Mother Nature can do. Pool growing of sea moss that is intended for human consumption is not as widely applied as many of us are led to believe.
Increasing challenges related to land area, quality and suitability are seeing this practice lose considerable ground when compared to sustainable ocean farming practices.
At the end of the day, the people in the seaweed industry are subjected to the same principles of business as the rest of us. Low or no profit means a slow in the flow of dollars and the doors soon close.
Where does most of the Sea Moss come from?
The vast majority of sea moss commercially available on the market nowadays is grown in the open ocean. You can see this in some areas if you use Google Earth. Sea moss farms are quite easy to spot.
Seaweed farming techniques in the past 20 years have improved dramatically. The application of more advanced engineering has allowed for the development of floating farms that are equipped with features that allow for the reduction in crop loss, while still getting the full benefit of being ocean harvested.
This has resulted in a natural attrition in the percentage of tank or pool grown sea moss. But it is still out there, which is why it’s important to know how to spot fake sea moss.
How do I Identify Fake Sea Moss?
Here are some tips to help you easily spot “fake” sea moss.
Tip 1 – The Perfect Look
Does your sea moss have that perfect look? Meaning, is it all roughly the same size and thickness?
Sea moss grows in a distinct way. You’ll know pool grown compared to ocean harvested based on the look.
It’s a bit like being able to tell the difference between home grown or organic vegetables and the commercially grown vegetables you buy at the store.
Real sea moss that is grown in the open ocean will be thicker in some parts than others. It will also have some variations on the length and density of the thallus.
These variations can come about as a result of many different things. Keep in mind that the sea moss is not just a food source for you. It’s primarily a food source for marine animals.
You may see little nobbly bits on your sea moss, particularly at the ends. This is a sign that crustaceans, fish, and possibly even sea turtles have been nibbling on it while it was growing.
Tip 2 – The Salt Grains
There will be surface salt that naturally occurs, but it’s the size of the salt grains, and the taste that really gives this away.
Sea moss soaks up the salt water it grows in. And as a result, when it dries, this shows up on the surface.
Is your sea moss lightly dusted with salt that is as fine as icing sugar? This is Real Authentic sea moss. If it is packaged with grains of salt that looks more like rock salt, or table salt, chances are it’s fake. This is not to be confused with sand. Sand and salt looks very different.
There’s also a very distinct difference in the taste of natural sea salt and processed salt. Try them and see for yourself.
Tip 3 – Other Seaweed with it
Real sea moss that is grown in the ocean will occasionally have stray pieces of another type of seaweed with it.
Sometimes you will find quite a few pieces mixed in there. This is normal.
In pools and tanks there are no other species of seaweed, just sea moss. Pools also lack sand and the occasional ‘sea dirt’, which can be found on sea moss.
Think of sea dirt as the very light silt that can be kicked up in the ocean during rough waves, storms or surface activity. This can settle on the sea moss during the growing stages.
A heavy build up of this sea dirt sediment can cause the plant to suffer. It blocks the sun and inhibits photosynthesis, which can be thought of as like a type of suffocation. This can then lead to other complications and the introduction of disease to the crop.
Tip 4 – Differences in color or tone
Authentic sea moss which has been allowed to grow naturally in the ocean will have some color variations, or slight differences in tones. Knowing how to spot fake sea moss is really easy with this tip. If you’ve got a batch of sea moss that is all the same color, it may be fake, or even worse it may be bleached.
Sea moss naturally comes in a few different colors. This is a result of where it is grown, and some slight species variations in the seaweed family. This means that for it to be golden white it has required some processing.
This processing is typically a simple application of exposure to sunlight. Depending on the color of the sea moss, it can often have some tonal variations after the sun drying stage.
But how is the color changed? It’s a simple process to take sea moss from being olive green, purple, brown, red, yellow or a warm orange to the golden white color you’re familiar with. This requires no chemicals when done properly, just controlled exposure to the direct sunlight to sweat out the color.
Where bleaching has been applied there’s a consistent white look to the sea moss. No little darker patches, no pieces that are more fawn than golden white. It looks very processed.
These color variations after sun drying come from the sea moss growing in natural conditions where it is exposed to slight variations in light, temperature and water movements.
Tank farmed sea moss will typically not have these variables as it is grown in an extremely controlled conditions. There’s no room for nature to create such noticeable differences.
How Common is Fake Sea Moss?
As stated before, fake sea moss isn’t as common as you might be led to believe. Globally, the rise of seaweed farming in the ocean is on the increase. Pool grown sea moss in the laboratory like conditions that Sebi cautioned us about is not able to compete with the awesome power of Mother Nature and the Ocean.
***What is more common is the lower grade quality of sea moss that is intended for animal consumption or industrial application being sold as food grade for human consumption***
This is the present threat that is faced today by companies and individuals sourcing high quality sea moss.
This lower grade sea moss is grown in the ocean, but not the quality of waters that you would be happy to have your sea moss grown in. Often, it is in areas that are close to commercial ports send harbors, or waters that are polluted by various types of run off, or in the line of currents from ocean dead zones .
Knowing more about the conditions of the waters is vital so that you know you are getting a clean, and mineral dense supply of sea moss.
There is almost a heated debate about the merits of various types of sea moss being labeled as wildcrafted sea moss . This is the actual issue that should be addressed, the issue we should be concerned about. Not the fake sea moss thing. I hope this helps you have a better understanding.