Carrageenan: Ins And Outs Of A New Food Additive

You might have come across something like carrageenan dangers, in the recent days something related to perusing the contents of various products that you intend to buy in the shopping stores. Carrageenan is also known as Irish Moss is a red seaweed extract which has carved a niche for itself in the food industry as the best and indispensable food additive. Carrageenan has found a myriad uses in numerous products like baby formula, canned soup, chocolate milk, ice creams, deli meats etc. Frozen foods like juice, lunch meats, coconut or rice milk, frozen pizza also contain carrageenan. Carrageenan has assumed this mark in the food industry by the dent of its peculiar chemical structure. It is a part of the family of linear sulphated polysaccharides and is widely used in the food industries. It is used for food thickening and for its stabilizing and gelling properties.

Carrageenan is of two types: degraded and undegraded.

When carrageenan is processed with alkali, it is called undegraded carrageenan which can be used a natural food ingredient. This carrageenan can be used in food products and is also called as foodgrade carrageenan. When carrageenan is processed with acid in place of alkali, it is degraded to reduced molecular weight and this is called as degraded carrageenan or poligeenan. While the degraded carrageen is shunned as harmful and unwholesome, undegraded carrageenan is often considered to be safe for consumption. From the mammoth shopping stores to the petty mom-and-pop-stores, you will find that carrageenan has flooded the market and consolidated its place as an important food additive.



Carrageenan works as a substitute for fat and thickens the non-fat or low-fat containing foods. It recreates a fatty “mouthfeel” in products such as low-fat or non-fat dairy (e.g., low-fat cottage cheese) and veg dairy substitutes (e.g., soy milk, coconut milk).  It is because of this reason that we relish creamy ice creams to take the scorching summers. Carrageenan also acts as a stabilizer for beverages that separate, and must be stirred before use to redistribute the particles. Therefore addition of carrageenan allows beverages like chocolate milk or nutritional shakes to be consumed without the need of shaking. Owing to their large, highly flexible molecules that curl and form helical structures, they also form a variety of different gels at room temperature. Deli meat and prepared chicken also use some amounts of carrageenan in their preparation. Pre-cooked poultry also uses carrageenan to improve tenderness and maintain juiciness.


Carrageenan dangers are now making news because of the increasing reports of its effects on health. Many people have shared their experiences after recuperating from the ills of carrageenan and claimed that after eliminating carrageenan from their diet, they have had no problems with stomach cramps, body aches or bloating. The complaints about carrageenan dangers or episodes- which included pain, throwing up, and sweats or chills. For those who have their intake of carrageenan on a regular basis, the inflammation will be prolonged and constant, which is a serious health concern since prolonged inflammation can cause many other serious health problems.

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