As recently reported by Food Dive1, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recently declared that carrageenan should no longer be allowed as an additive to organic food, meaning that foods containing carrageenan will not be considered “organic.” This recommendation will now follow the process of being made a federal law.
Is carrageenan safe?
Carrageenan is a polysaccharide derived from seaweed, and commonly used as an emulsifier in food products, particularly dairy2. It is also a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin in some applications.3 Some scientific and anecdotal evidence, however, indicates that carrageenan may cause digestive inflammation and glucose intolerance4, though duplicating those results in other studies has not always been successful.
The NOSB received more than 40,000 petitions from agriculture policy group the Cornucopia Institute, requesting the removal of the seaweed additive from the approved list, citing personal stories of gastrointestinal problems.
Members from such organizations as Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Food Additives Council, and United 4 Food Science quickly issued statements of disagreement, calling the NOSB decision “concerning,” “disappointing,” and “a dangerous precedent.” The organizations seem to agree that alternative additives do not work as well as carrageenan, and would make it difficult for organic food manufacturers to compete in the marketplace.
Research and Markets reports that the global Carrageenan industry was worth 762.35 million USD, as of 2013.5 Yet according to NOSB documents6, carrageenan has already been removed from many products in recent years, using either alternatives such as gellan gum, xanthan gum, and guar gum, or no replacement at all.
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Share your experience
Do you use carrageenan in your food formulations? Will you continue to, or will you be seeking out alternatives? What success have you had with alternatives? Please share your experience with the community with a comment below.
- The Seaweed Site
- Exposure to the common food additive carrageenan leads to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and inhibition of insulin signalling in HepG2 cells and C57BL/6J mice. Bhattacharyya S, O-Sullivan I, Katyal S, Unterman T, Tobacman JK.
- Global Carrageenan Market- Trends and Forecasts:(2015 – 2020)
- National Organic Standards Board Meeting Agenda – November 2016
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