Carrageenan is a soluble fiber product that is derived from red seaweed. It has been used for hundreds of years and is added as a stabilizer to various foods such as ice cream and other dairy products, syrups and lunch meats. Carrageenan is cultivated in an environmental-friendly and sustainable manner and its minimal processing makes it an ideal ingredient for organic foods.
It has several functions when added to foods:
- Enable foods to be produced with lower levels of fats and sugars
- Extend shelf life without loss of quality
- Eliminate the need for refrigeration
- Use as a thickening agent (much like flour or cornstarch)
Is it safe?
Carrageenan is considered to be safe and a suitable food additive as demonstrated in many studies. It is naturally occurring, non-synthetic, and one of the safest food additives available. There are studies that claim there is a connection between ingestion of carrageenan and inflammation of the digestive tract or cancer, but these conclusions seem to have been misinterpreted due to flawed methodology and comparisons. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has deemed carrageenan to be non-carcinogenic. It is not to be confused with poligeenan, which is not a food additive and has no functionality in food
It does not require fresh water or arable water to cultivate red seaweed. Small family farms in Southeast Asia, providing them the economic bases to sustain their communities, produce most carrageenan. It also enables food items to eliminate the need for refrigeration, which reduces electricity and fossil fuel consumption.
Below is an infographic that summarizes how seaweed farming improves the global food system.
To learn more about carrageenan, visit Food Science Matters.