What is carrageenan?

Carrageen is the product of red seaweed, which is a natural food ingredient that has been in use for several years for cooking purpose. It is soluble fiber that is known to add life to the shelf. Carrageenan consists of high molecular weight polysaccharide that has got galactose sulfate and hydro galactose sulfate.


There are three types of carrageenan that are identified by their number and distribution of sulfate groups on the macromolecule. This carrageenan comprises of several properties in terms of texture and solubility. It is a versatile product that is used in foods, personal care products, dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products. It is often used as a thickening agent in the place of petrochemical and animal-based products.

The edible red seaweed is also called as Irish moss, Doss or Nori. Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed. The red seaweed is found in the coastal water and it has been in the use of various food and drinks. Today, carrageenan is used for many purposes like to stabilize the yogurt, binds the protein, ice cream, powdered creamers and deli meats.

The carrageenan is an animal product free ingredient which is derived from the nature. However, one question arises here is that “is carrageenan safe?” Well, it has been approved to be used in foods and beverages by scientific bodies namely the European Union, U.S. Food, and Drug Administration, Health Canada, Joint Food & Agricultural Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Carrageenan plays a crucial role in the economic prosperity of 60000 family farmers in the world. Seaweed farming to produce carrageenan has become a livelihood to may small farmers. Particularly it has been grown by the farmers in the tropical climates because seaweed farming requires less capital and equipment. Farmers are also able to have their won seaweed which renders the less displacement of families by larger farms. It is the profitable commodity in the coastal communities in developing countries.

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About the Author: Samantha Flores