Let’s face it, aside from all the products that specifically state ‘organic’ there’s nothing else that we can eat that’s all that natural. Everything else, the processed and packed food products especially, contain preservatives, and other kinds of flavoring in order to increase the shelf life and enhance flavors. Also, when manufacturers resort to artificial flavoring and such then they can cut off on expenses compared to when they decide to use natural flavorings; by doing so, they’re able to provide cheaper products. Surprisingly, the most commonly used substance, which is carrageenan, has been criticized left and right.Whether or not carrageenan is safe to use in food products is a widely debated question that come with numerous experiments and research. An eyebrow raising issue since carrageenan has been used for centuries and by our ancestors and they turned out just fine so why isn’t it safe to use now? In order for you to answer that question and make up your mind, you should probably get to know carrageenan. Some information are important like what exactly carrageenan is, where it came from and the like.
So basically, carrageenan is extracted from a kind of red seaweed and it’s considered as a linear of sulphated polysaccharides. As we mentioned, carrageenan is used in the food industry and quite commonly too. It’s a stabilizer, thickener and can enhance the gelling of the food products. Carrageenan is mainly used in various dairy and meat products since they it effectively binds food protein.
You might have already read somewhere that carrageenan was added in the food industry’s production somewhere in 1930’s. But technically they were first used in China way back in 600 B.C and in Ireland around 400 A.D. People can actually produce carrageenan at home when they get their hands on the seaweed and the recipe.
Meanwhile, the suppliers would harvest the seaweed and have them dried and sent to the carrageenan manufacturer since they have the necessary equipment. At the manufacturer, the seaweeds are ground and sifted in order to remove any impurities like sand that may have gotten in the mix, afterwards they are thoroughly washed. The harvested seaweeds need to be cooked in hot alkali, by doing so they give the alkali a chance to enhance the strength of the gel. After the cooking process the cellulose is separated from the carrageenan itself through centrifugation and filtration. The solution that’s extracted afterwards is evaporated in order to enhance the concentration. In the end the solution is dried and ground according to the specification of the company that ordered.
Carrageenan has two basic grades the refined carrageenan (RC for short) and semi-refined carrageenan (otherwise known as SRC). Both these grades are labeled as just carrageenan in the United Stated. Meanwhile in the European Union, the refined carrageenan is called E-407 and they use E-407a for the semi-refined carrageenan. They should be labeled differently since refined carrageenan has low acid insoluble material compared to the semi-refined kind.