Carrageenan and Its Basic Facts
Although the usage of carrageenan isn’t something new for the food production, the usage of such substance in the modern food industry had just started around the 1940s – take or give around the 1950s. It is relatively new and yet everyone has been familiar with the functionality and usage. You have to admit that the substance is pretty important as the food thickener or emulsifier. Without it, most of the food products will be watery or they won’t last.
However, the existence of carrageenan has triggered a controversy and ongoing debate. Some people claim that carrageenan is pretty safe and harmless while the others say that carrageenan is highly dangerous and toxic. What’s the truth, really? What’s real about this substance, anyway?
The Truth be Told
As it was mentioned before, the carrageenan is a food thickener or stabilizer that produces the creamy and rather solid texture of the food. You may be familiar with the yogurts, ice cream, cottage cheese, or cream cheese – they are all using the carrageenan to have that soft and yet supple texture.
The carrageenan isn’t something in the food processing and manufacturing. The substance is extracted from the Irish Moss or the red seaweed which is native to only several areas in the world. The seaweed can be found in Ireland, Africa, and Southeast Asia, making it highly valuable. The local people of the Irish Coast have been producing carrageenan on their own for medicine and food. If carrageenan is highly dangerous and even toxic, don’t you think that those local Irish people should have all been sick by now?
People often mistake carrageenan with poligeenan, another string that originates from the red seaweed. Unlike the carrageenan, though, the poligeenan is quite dangerous because it involves acid addition and an acid bath in the manufacturing process. Sure, both the poligeenan and carrageenan come from the same source but they are completely different in the final outcome and results.