Some people with shellfish allergy have concerns about consuming sea salt that might be contaminated with traces of shellfish.
Though there are few facts available concerning sea salt and shellfish contamination, there are many personal stories of those with a shellfish allergy reacting to foods sprinkled with sea salt.
This is concerning since salt seasons a growing number of food products. Though salt or sea salt will be indicated on the nutrition label, the possibility of shellfish contamination will not.
Producing Sea Salt
Unrefined Sea Salt
Given the way unrefined sea salt is made, possible shellfish contamination seems unavoidable.
Unrefined sea salt is usually prepared in open salt pans, where moisture is evaporated by sun and wind. When the pans are set in a clean, natural environment, the salt is free from the effects of industrial refining processes, but crustaceans, fish, birds, pollens and algae are naturally present.
Some salt makers wash their salt crystals with clean ocean brine when harvesting them, rinsing off extraneous environmental matter – but this does not rinse away traces of matter trapped within the salt crystals.
Refined Sea Salt
Industrially processed sea salt might also contain matter from the natural environment, and may be sourced from polluted saltwater such as the San Francisco Bay. Harvesting the salt with diesel-fueled equipment further contaminates the crystals that are finally bleached and mixed with de-clumping additives.
It seems we would all do well to avoid refined sea salt, allergy or not, even if it turns out refining eliminates traces of organic matter – just as it eliminates healthy trace minerals.
A 'Sea Salt and Shellfish' Internet Search
An Internet search on sea salt and shellfish allergy finds scientists and doctors who think “marine copolymers” (traces of shellfish) in sea salt are too tiny to cause allergic reactions, and others who confirm that reactions can and do occur.
The same web search locates a petition started three years ago on Change.org which still needs 900 signatures. The petition is for food manufacturers who use sea salt to put a “may contain shellfish traces” warning on their packaging. If enough people sign it, this petition can be revived.
The search also uncovers salt products that are said to be allergen- and gluten-free, such as HimalaSalt. It is produced without chemicals in a certified organic, kosher production plant on equipment never shared with other products. The HimalaSalt company guarantees the absence of cross-contact or cross-contamination in the making of its product.
Photo by Jamie Ann