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Carrageenan is a natural carbohydrate (polysaccharide) obtained from edible red seaweeds. The name Carrageenan is derived from the Chondrus crispus species of seaweed known as Carrageen Moss or Irish Moss in England, and Carraigin in Ireland. Carraigin has been used in Ireland since 400 AD as a gelatin and as a home remedy to cure coughs and colds. It grows along the coasts of North American and Europe.

There are two types of carrageenan including undegraded and degraded. Undegraded or food-grade carrageenan has been used in food production since the 1930s. Degraded carrageenan is hydrolyzed with acid and is not permitted for use in food production because it is a known carcinogen.

Carrageenan is used in food production as a thickening agent, an emulsifying agent and a stabilizing agent.

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COMMON FOOD ADDITIVES Aluminum Amaranth Aspartame Azodicarbonamide Benzoic Acid Brilliant Black Calcium Benzoate Calcium Sulphite Calcium Stearate Canola Oil Carrageenan Corn Syrup Datem DHC (dihydrocoumarin) Hydrogenated Oil Guar Gum Modified Food Starch Modified Corn Starch MSG Paprika Oleoresin Paraben Potassium Nitrate Red no 2 Sucralose Caramel Yellow 6 Xanthan Gum



Undegraded carrageenan is considered safe by the FDA and it currently has the highest Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) status of ‘not specified’ by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

If carrageenan is consumed in large amounts, some individuals may experience minor side effects such as flatulence and bloating. These types of reactions are due to fermentation by the intestinal microflora, in the same way as all indigestible polysaccharides.

As stated earlier, degraded carrageenan is considered dangerous because it is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). It can cause ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. It is not permitted for use in foods.


Carrageenan is used in many dairy products such as cream cheese, cottage cheese, skim milk, and yogurt as well as desserts and sweets such as custards, ice cream, milk shakes, pie fillings and chocolate products. Carrageenan is also used in salad dressings, sauces and soups as well as jellies, beer, diet sodas, pate and as a fat substitute in processed meats.

Other Uses:

In addition to use as a food additive, carrageenan is also used in air freshener gels, toothpaste, fire fighting foam, shampoo, cosmetic creams and shoe polish. In biotechnology, carrageenan is used as a gel to immobilize cells/enzymes.