Carrageenan FAQ

Carrageenan Facts

How Is Carrageenan Made?

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed that is cultivated in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. Most red seaweed is produced in Southeast Asia by small family farms without the need for fertilizer, arable land, pesticides or fresh water.

The production of carrageenan begins with the careful processing of red seaweed in hot water. It is then treated with traditional curing agents such as lye or lime, followed by drying, milling and blending of the product in much the same way other similar thickening agents are prepared for use in food. During processing, the natural functionality of seaweed is preserved. The production of carrageenan is economical and there is minimal waste. Total production of carrageenan exceeds 60,000 metric tons annually, almost all of which is devoted to the food industry.

Is Carrageenan Safe?

Yes, it is safe. Decades of scientific studies confirm the safety of carrageenan. Regulatory bodies from around the world including those in the United States, Europe, China, Japan and Brazil have reviewed the studies on carrageenan and have determined that carrageenan is safe for use in food.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Joint FAO (Food & Agricultural Organization/WHO (World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) have determined there was no need to set an upper limit on the amount of carrageenan a human can safely consume when carrageenan is used at the level needed to achieve its intended effect in food. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found it to be non-carcinogenic.

What is lye?  Common alternative name of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. It has many uses from organic soap making, curing of foods such as green olives, hominy, or treating pretzels.

Are poligeenan and carrageenan the same thing?

No. Poligeenan is a substance that requires an aggressive process using strong acids and high temperatures over an extended period of time compared to the very gentle and minimal processing required to release and purify carrageenan. Poligeenan is never used in food or pharmaceuticals.