Health

Carrageenan – All you need to know

So, answering the most basic question first – what is carrageenan? It is basically a natural food ingredient which has a large number of uses. In fact, it’s found in so many foods you consume on a daily basis. It has been used since time immemorial and is a great replacement for animal based and synthetic products. It’s undoubtedly ideal for vegetarian and vegan people. Carrageenan traces its origin to red seaweed and is popularly used as a thickener in food items. This ingredient actually plays a very important role in keeping food desirable and delectable for longer durations and thus reducing wastage of food a great deal.

Seaweed, the main source of income in the Caluya Islands for many people. The farmers grow and dry the seaweed before it gets sold to bigger buyers. Then the seaweed is processed into carrageenan, a binding/thickening agent used in many products from food to toothpaste. Unfortunately for the farmers, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) washed many of their crops away.

Seaweed, the main source of income in the Caluya Islands for many people. The farmers grow and dry the seaweed before it gets sold to bigger buyers. Then the seaweed is processed into carrageenan, a binding/thickening agent used in many products from food to toothpaste. Unfortunately for the farmers, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) washed many of their crops away.

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The whole process of deriving it from the seaweed is very simple and often people do it themselves only. It just has to be boiled in a non acidic and relatively mild broth, filtered and ultimately turned into a fine powder by milling, thus making it perfect to be used in food. For easy understanding, take carrageenan to be an additive as it’s something that is just added to the food, like any other common additive – salt, pepper and the like. This amazing ingredient helps to retain the moisture in cooked meats and prevents the chocolate from separating in chocolate milk by suspending it.

How safe is Carrageenan?

Yes, it is completely safe and that is why it is used so extensively in the food industry. It is not harmful in any way and all your favourite foods would never be the same, if it wasn’t for this magic food ingredient. It’s important to note that the type of carrageenan used in food is undegraded and doesn’t go through harsh processing; its extraction is done in a very gentle way. The degraded form is strictly not used in food at all. Carrageenan has been evaluated and passed by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives as being a perfectly safe food additive. Moreover, it also states that no limits need to be put on its usage in food. This additive is the one which helps in delivering safe, nutritious and healthy products to people, even in remote locations. It’s imperative that the use of carrageenan is encouraged and continued as it affects billions of people all around the world and makes food available to them. This is what preserves the food items and plays a crucial role in extending their shelf life. All in all, carrageenan enhances food security and sustainability and makes sure there are no severe food shortages. Need we say more?

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