Marinalg Applauds USDA’s Decision to Keep Carrageenan in Organic Foods

Marinalg International, a global association representing manufacturers of seaweed-derived hydrocolloids, applauds the decision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to keep carrageenan on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, thereby maintaining the integrity of the U.S. organic program and confirming carrageenan is essential to organic food production. USDA’s announcement concludes a nearly 17-month process which followed an emotionally biased vote to remove a substance on subjective grounds.

Carrageenan is a naturally-derived food ingredient that is extracted from several species of red seaweed. Carrageenan is used to stabilize and thicken foods, providing texture and preventing the separation of ingredients and nutrients. It can also be used to improve the nutritional value of foods by lowering sugar and salt content. Due to its superb emulsification, stabilization and thickening properties, carrageenan is preferred in conventional and organic food production, and in some applications has no suitable alternative. In these cases, carrageenan could not be substituted or eliminated without sacrificing product quality and consistency, therefore it is an essential ingredient.

Carrageenan has been extensively reviewed by both national and international regulatory bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which have all confirmed its safety when used as an ingredient in foods. Not only has it been proven safe, it has also been proven to be essential to support the technical functions and qualities of foods. Though carrageenan is widely known to be safe, is clearly essential, and is aligned with organic production practices, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted in November 2016 to remove it from the National List based on the argument that it is not essential. This, despite comments made during the 2016 NOSB meeting that there are categories of organic products where no substitute [to carrageenan] has emerged. NOSB’s vote meant that organic producers would be forced to use additional or greater volumes of other non-organic additives that could compromise product integrity, nutrient quality, and potentially product safety.

Since the NOSB is an advisory board, the USDA does not have to follow its advice. Today, Marinalg commends the USDA for exercising its authority to follow sound science and organic principles by relisting carrageenan based on its proven safety and essentiality in foods.

Marinalg looks forward to continuing to support the interests of all those impacted by the organic status of carrageenan – from seaweed farmers and their families, to producers and manufacturers, to businesses and customers who expect the availability of foods they consume every day. For more information about carrageenan, click here.