Carrageenan – Boon Or Bane?

What’s carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a kind of fiber made from red seaweeds and is used to stabilize or add texture to a wide variety of foodstuffs. This edible red seaweed from which carrageenan is prepared is commonly found on the rocks of coastal areas. Carrageenan has been in use for centuries, however, it’s relevant to us today in the form of a substitute to the gelatin; thus offering an animal-free product to vegetarians. The main purpose of carrageenan today is to stabilize and bind proteins, milk, yogurt etc.

Carrageenan is a completely natural ingredient and is approved by many esteemed food regulatory bodies around the world such as U.S FDA, European Union, Food Standards Australia & New Zealand, and many others.

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Carrageenan is directly linked to the income of 60,000 families around the world. Seaweed farming is being taken up by small farmers, mostly living in tropical areas; as there’s less capital involved in terms of equipment and it also takes less time. Farmers can hold a sizeable quantity of seaweed to themselves, without fear of being displaced by larger farms. This offers a unique opportunity to farmers to sustain themselves in the coastal regions of developing countries around the world.

So what’s all the fuss surrounding Carrageenan?

Many food activists and food bloggers have taken it upon themselves to remove carrageenan from all foods in which it is present. These people allege that carrageenan has been found to be carcinogenic and it brings about many health complications like cancer, digestive, and reproductive disorders. However, there’s no solid proof to corroborate these allegations and the people who are bent on erasing carrageenan from existence, fail to see its value. So there’s no conclusive proof regarding carrageenan dangers that were thought to have existed.

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Carrageenan today is being used in many of the foods and beverages we consume. This natural ingredient adds texture and flavor and makes the food substance more palatable. For example – the reason your ice cream is creamy at all is the presence of this so-called “harmful” food additive, the carrageenan.

Is Carrageenan really safe?

It has now been proved that carrageenan is totally safe after an extensive research was performed by some of the leading authorities in the matter – the Joint FAO/WHO expert committee. Furthermore, there are no limits as to its usage in food and other beverages. These are the facts surrounding the carrageenan ‘crusade’ and the crusaders are encouraged to rely on facts and science rather than myth.

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