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Just what is carrageenan, and why is it used in so many packaged foods?

Posted in All Things Dairy-Free by Sheena L. September 16, 2013

We hear it all the time: what the heck is carrageenan, and why is in So Delicious® Dairy Free’s products? There’s been a great deal of confusion and misinformation circulating about carrageenan, and this post is intended to help clear that up and let you know where we stand as a company about this ingredient.

Is So Delicious® Dairy Free planning to remove the carrageenan from their products?

We believe that the governing bodies responsible for food safety and the scientific health studies overwhelmingly conclude that carrageenan is safe. Despite this, our fans still voiced concerns over the ingredient, so our team decided to proactively look for alternate solutions. As a company, we’re dedicated to selecting top quality ingredients that meet our stringent purity and allergen-free requirements, and we’re passionate about delivering delicious dairy-free options to kitchen tables across the country.

For the past two years now, we’ve been working very hard on reformulating our coconut milk beverage line to remove carrageenan. Our new recipe for carrageenan-free coconut milk has just been completed, a milestone in a process that’s certainly been a labor of love for our team. We have been working tirelessly on this for nearly two years. It isn’t easy work to recreate recipes or produce them on a large scale, but we are really proud of the end result and hope you will be too. We have shared samples with fans, retailers and influencers over the past few months and heard great feedback on the taste and creaminess.

Our current challenge is getting the old packaging swapped out for the new. That is taking us a bit longer than we anticipated; however, our new carrageenan-free coconut milk will start to roll into stores in the early months of 2014. We hope you can be patient with us, as it will take several months to flow these beverages out throughout all of our systems. You will first find it in the refrigerated section and then it will roll out to the shelf stable sections nationwide. Back at our offices, we will continue moving through our product line to remove carrageenan from our other products. Our goal is to offer a complete line of dairy-free products that are all carrageenan free.  Just so you know, we already have many products that do not contain carrageenan.

We will also be launching several exciting new products in 2014 (like our brand new Unsweetened Cultured Coconut Milks), and we’re happy to announce that from now on, every new product we release will be carrageenan-free. As a reminder, all of our products are Non-GMO Project Verified, often made with organic ingredients, 100% plant-based, and never have artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. We work hard to make foods that you can be proud to serve!

What exactly is carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a natural polysaccharide,  or carbohydrate, that’s extracted from a specific type of red seaweed that’s very common in the Atlantic ocean. The seaweed is boiled to help extract the carrageenan, which is a gum-like substance that’s been used on a huge scale worldwide in food production since the 1930s.

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Carrageenan is a natural carbohydrate extracted from red seaweed.
Photo credit: http://www.foodiedubai.com/what-is-carrageenan/

Why is carrageenan used in so many packaged foods?

If you look at packaged foods (especially dairy foods and dairy substitutes), you’ll find that just about all major food brands use carrageenan in their products. Food companies use carrageenan for four main reasons: to thicken (very useful for creamy beverage consistency), to emulsify, to bind the water and coconut oils together (which guarantees a nice, smooth texture as you enjoy drinking or eating it), and to stabilize crystals (necessary to make sure our delicious frozen desserts do a fantastic job of mimicking ice cream and maintain that same creamy, delicious texture you’re used to).

Is carrageenan safe?

The safety of carrageenan has been assured by the FDA, and has been given GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) status. Additionally, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) gave carrageenan the highest ADI (Accepted Daily Intake) status.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which has included undegraded carrageenan on its approved list of ingredients since the mid 1990s, completed another extensive review of undegraded carrageenan in May 2012, and they concluded that undegraded carrageenan is safe to continue using in organic products (with the lone exception of infant formulas). Although these major governing food organizations have supported ingredients like carrageenan for decades, we are always striving to deliver excellence with our products. That means we take our product integrity and ingredient selection very seriously, and conduct our own internal reviews to determine how our products are made. We believe that both science and governing bodies overwhelmingly conclude that carrageenan is safe.

Why all the confusion?

There has been a great deal of confusion about carrageenan. The confusion arises because there are two types: undegraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid). Unfortunately, the specific type of carrageenan used is not allowed to be identified in the ingredient statement on product packaging. Undegraded carrageenan has been proven to be safe through rigorous studies, and So Delicious® Dairy Free only uses undegraded carrageenan in our products.

 


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71 Comments by Others

Thank you so much for trying to make carageen free food. I am so excited!! This means i can now drink milk again and eat ice cream!!! So excited!!! I love you so delicious!!!!

Thanks, Maegan! We take pride in listening to our fans, and we’re glad to hear that you’re so excited about the upcoming changes. Stay tuned for updates!

Really looking forward to the new products, I love all your products.

Yeah all the boxed non-dairy milk brands are snakey. Kombucha is one of my favorite drinks and the probiotics are super good for your digestion! I drink a lot of tea and La Croix sparkling water too

Ah, the good ol’ FDA…too bad I trust them as far as I can throw them. All I know is when I eat it, I have horrible abdominal cramps/constipation/joint inflammation (TMI, I know, but true). I’m not surprised that some people have bad reactions, because in lab rats, they use it to cause inflammation. ” Inflammation induced by carrageenan, originally described by Winter (1), is acute, nonimmune, well-researched, and highly reproducible.” Lovely, right?

http://www.springerprotocols.com/Abstract/doi/10.1385/1-59259-374-7:115

THANK YOU, So Delicious, for listening to your customers and trying to find alternatives!

Sincerely,

Laura Cozzarelli, M.D.

I hope you do find a way to remove this, loved your coconut creamers until I found out they contained this so I no longer purchase it or the coconut milk. haven’t checked the coconut ice cream yet but I will no longer buy that either if it contains carregeenan. There are a lot of comments going around FB right now about this ingredient and So Delicious is named a lot!

Hi. I just wonder why so many people are looking for kappa carrageenan and there is not many recipe that using k.carrageenan as cooking or backing ingredient. Do anyone have any related recipe and info (for example the ratio of it with gelatin) of it?

Thank you so very much for taking care of this and removing it from your products,

I was wondering if the fact that it was in ice cream was giving me digestive issues? I loved the ice cream but was not able to eat it. Hopefully this will solve the problem and I will be back to eating it again…DELCIOUS! Thanks so much.

Thank you for listening to your customers. I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of carrageenan-free coconut milk!

Thank you for listening to your customers. I stopped buying vanilla flavored milk and miss it immensely. I look forward to being able to buy it again soon.

I don’t care who says which-ever kind of carrageenan is safe! After years of painful “IBS”, my 3rd GI figured out I might be sensitive to certain food additives based on my anecdotal reports of my numerous rule-out diets. He taught me how to figure out which additives or foods triggered me. It took a few months of rule-outs+internet searching, but carrageenan was my #1 trigger. I don’t get allergic responses to it and apparently tolerate it it topically. It’s just my gut, same place each time, that begins to swell & burn 20′ish – 60 minutes after eating something with carrageenan in it (including meats that are injected with carrageenan!)

I realize that I’m in the minority, but this minority is growing (including those with allergic reactions), so I don’t want carrageenan completely removed from ALL food products, as I realize it’s been eaten for decades, maybe centuries, by people living near the colder seas. I just wish food companies that keep using the FDA’s stance as an excuse will offer 1-2 choices without carrageenan.

I research what I can online, check every label before purchase (even “trusted” products), and have driven further and paid more for non-carrageenan foods.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with us, Shreela. Just in case you missed it in our post, we do offer many, many options that are carrageenan-free. Visit http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/files/so-delicious-carrageenan-free.pdf to see the current list, and know that we’ll continue working to expand this list. Thanks again!

Thank you so delicious. I truly love your ice creams & milk but took them out my grocery list when I found out you used carrageenan the ingredient that all other milk substitutes were using & also causing my stomach pains.

I like that you are working towards removing this ingredient . Any estimate on when it will be in stores. I really like your products but can’t use any with carrageenan.

Hi Jan. The first of our newly reformulated coconut milk beverages is due to arrive in stores in early January of 2014. We’ll continue removing carrageenan from the rest of our products over the coming months. Every new product that we launch will be carrageenan-free, so stay tuned to our Facebook page for some exciting new product announcements coming soon!

Please continue your efforts to remove carrageenan from all of your products as quickly as possible. The FDA has proven itself unreliable regarding its practices and approvals. If the NOSB says infants should not have it, no one should. I greatly enjoy your So Delicious creamer, but, as one who suffers from intestinal inflammation, I may have to eliminate it from my diet because of the carrageenan. Thank you for listening to your consumers. A responsive company is a successful one.

Love your products but stopped buying them because of this ingredient . So happy to see you are changing this! Looking forward to using them again!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you! I have been looking everywhere for a non-carageenan coconut milk, as are many of my friends. This product can’t come fast enough!!

I am a huge fan of So Delicious products, but stopped purchasing them about a year ago due to the carageenan. My 17 month old is lactose intolerant and very underweight. I can’t wait to start giving him the coconut milk again to boost his daily calories. I have been looking at the labels everytime I go to the store. We can’t wait to see the new products!

Also, can you tell me if you guys have discontinued your kefir?

Yes, please bring back the kefir!

I am SO looking forward to your new products! It kills me that I can’t have your Coconut milk and creamers due to the carrageenan. Take that out and I will be a daily consumer!

so delicious milk fan

the concern is that the undegraded form of carraggeenan become dregraded in the stomach of the consumer during digestion.

so delicious milk fan

ALso, is the removal of carrageenan from the almond plus protein in the near future? I really loves that it gives 5g of protein !

The first of our new carrageenan-free coconut milk will start to roll into stores in January 2014. We hope you can be patient with us, as it will take several months to flow these beverages out throughout all of our systems. You will first find it in the refrigerated section and then it will roll out to the shelf stable sections nationwide. Back at our offices, we will continue moving through our product line to remove carrageenan from other products (including our Almond Plus Beverages).

Thank you. For some reason I get headaches from the products I’ve tried by So Delicious. I believe it is from the Carrageenan. I look forward to giving the re-formulated coconut milk a try.

Thank you! Just reading about this and excited to see carrageenan-freee coconut milk will be coming soon.

Thank you So Delicious! This is such great news! I was just told about the carrageen last week by my nutritionist and was sad that I was going to have to stop buying your products. I can’t tell you how glad I am, and I really look forward to the new formula! Thanks again!

You guys rock! I was just told about dangerous side effects carrageenan can have on people (I already suffer from Ulcerative Colitis) and was bummed out that I was going to have to stop buying your products. I came to the site and wanted to voice my option but looks like I’m a few years behind and many people have already. Thanks for listening to us. I can’t wait to see the carrageenan free products.

Way to go! I’m soooo excited to possibly be able to drink your coconut milk again! Despite what mainstream American regulators tell major companies and the general public, carrageenan is not safe to consume on a regular basis. I did extensive research on the subject after being diagnosed with autoimmune issues a few years back and found several studies linking food-grade carrageenan to all sorts of inflammatory diseases, including cancer. I noticed right away after removing all carrageenan containing products from my diet that certain symptoms I was having were linked to the milk, ice cream, and almond yogurt I was consuming! I was waking up with a puffy face and swollen eyes each morning until I stopped consuming those foods containing the ingredient. In the past, carrageenan has actually been used to cause inflammation in patients in order to test the effectiveness of new anti-inflammatory drugs! Your company should feel great and very confident in making this positive change! Thank you for striving to bring customers options for better health. :)

Has their been a release date for Carageen free products yet?

It’s complicated process, Amy. We just completed the recipes for our coconut milk beverages and are now working on swapping out the packaging. This process takes some time, and a lot will depend on the individual flavors and where you live. We’re already producing the first of the carrageenan-free coconut milk beverages, but you probably won’t see it on store shelves just yet (although some of the refrigerated products are rolling into stores now). We very much appreciate your patience as we move through our entire line of products to reformulate with carrageenan-free recipes.

This is very exciting news. I am a long-time fan of So Delicious Coconut Milk products, especially the unsweetened beverage and original flavor creamer, but stopped buying them last spring because my body is definitely sensitive to carrageenan. I’ve missed these items a lot (especially the creamer — soy creamer does not compare!) and cannot wait to buy the new carrageenan-free products. Thank you, So Delicious, for listening to your customers’ concerns and caring about our health!

when are the products without carageenan becoming available to purchase?

Hi Ruth,

We have an extensive line of carrageenan-free products that are available to purchase right now. Please visit http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/files/so-delicious-carrageenan-free.pdf for a full list.

As for our reformulated products, we’ve been producing refrigerated half gallons of carrageenan-free Vanilla Coconut Milk Beverages and Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk Beverages for several weeks now. At this point, it’s a matter of moving the new product through all the distribution channels. Some regions and stores already have the newly formulated vanilla coconut milk beverages, while others are still using up the last of the previous inventory.

We’re continuing to move through the other flavors and varieties of our product line that currently contain carrageenan and hope that you’ll be patient with us as we manage this huge undertaking.

I was told that you.ve decided to re formulate your products and am delighted to find confirmation. I don’t agree that any form of carrageenan is safe for human consumption and have read plenty of studies that support my view. In fact, Cornucopia.org is petitioning the FDA to change it’s rules. http://www.cornucopia.org/CornucopiaAnalysisofCarrageenanHealthImpacts042612.pdf

I will keep checking the cartons at my local stores as I miss your unsweetened coconut milk in my morning smoothie. Thank you for not waiting for the government to catch up to the science and listening to your customers.

You guys rock! Now that the carrageenan is out, you’ve got me! Thank you!!!

Still anxiously awaiting in Austin’s HEB’s! :) Just curious, will the new packaging advertise carrageenan free?

Hi Ashley,

The Vanilla Coconut Milk and the Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk beverages are already flowing out through our distribution channels. Some of our fans have even been tweeting to us telling us that they’ve found these flavors in stock at their local stores. And to answer your question, the new packing is identical to the older version except for the ingredient and nutrition labels. In other words, there is nothing on the front of the packaging that indicates that it’s a new version.

It is wonderful to know that your company at least will be removing carrageenan from all of your products. I am a fan of the coconut milk and the frozen items. It will be worth the wait. Hopefully the other companies will follow suit and develop safer foods which are labeled as being natural and organic.

The FDA deeming something safe doesn’t mean anything. They say many ingredients like food coloring agents, which are produced from coal tar, and banned in other countries, are safe.

It is greatly appreciated that you are working to remove this concerning ingredient.. Thank you.

Glad you are removing the carrageenan. My only concern is what you are using to replace it in the re-formulated versions.??

The carrageenan is being replaced with guar gum and gellan gum, depending on the specific product in question.

What I love seeing here is a company that, while acknowledging an ingredient used in their products is safe, has taken the steps to listen to their consumers who are voicing they don’t want said safe ingredient in their product! I do believe, by what I have read in several different articles, that the confusion has begun in part to the degraded vs undegraded carrageenan. Consumers don’t necessarily read all the facts before voicing their opinions. I’ve been drinking alternatives to cow’s milk for many months now and have basically purchased what was available on the shelf and/or on sale in our small town. Now, I will specifically look for and purchase So Delicious Dairy Free products based on their commitment to their customers! Thank you for listening!

Thank you so much for doing this! My daughter is severely allergic to dairy but she loves coconut. We love your greek coconut yogurt and the coconut desserts. Now I will be able to give her a nutritious beverage without carrageenan. Thank you for listening to your customers! Thank you! Thank you!

Hi, I live in Canada and just found out about your products. I am lactose intolerant, so I was glad to see a wide variety of non-dairy products I could eat. I bought the Soy Neapolitan Ice Cream, and made sure to read the label, saying there was no carrageenan in it. I also have a terrible allergy to carrageenan. I have not ate any of the ice cream, but was on your website today and checked the nutrition info on the same product and saw that it listed carrageenan as an ingredient. Is it simply because the Canadian products don’t contain this ingredient, or is it just not listed on the label?

Caitlin,

You can always trust the label of the product that’s in your hand. If you’re looking at a container of our frozen dessert and the ingredients don’t list carrageenan, then you can rest assured that there is no carrageenan in that product. As this blog post mentioned, we are working on removing carrageenan from all of our products. This is a huge undertaking, and some reformulated products will be appearing in stores before others. The website still lists carrageenan as an ingredient because there are still some of this product out there that still contains carrageenan. This is why it’s always important the check labels. Enjoy your quart of carrageenan-free Neapolitan!

I keep checking and it’s still in there= my doctor said to switch to Silk brand. Is there any anticipated date for arrival in stores?

Hi Theresa,

Our refrigerated half gallons of Vanilla and Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk Beverages were the first flavors to complete the recipe change, and our fans are already finding these in stores. Where exactly do you live? The rest of our beverages are currently getting switched over to a carrageenan-free recipe as well, and you’ll start seeing them in stores in the coming weeks and months.

THANK YOU THANK YOU! I’m so happy you took this out!!!

Joe V…… I have just spent numerous hours over the past three days or so searching the internet reading lable after lable looking for a coconut milk that DID NOT contain carrageenen. I have been overwhelmed with dismay…….UNTIL I CAME UPON YOUR BLOG!!!!!! Thank you so much for posting the intent of So Delicious to remove all carageenen from all their products! You have a new faithful consumer.

I live in a suburb just outside Boston and purchase large quantities of the refrigerated half gallons of Unsweetened Vanilla coconut milk because of my young children’s milk allergies. The ones I have been buying still contain carrageenan. I buy them from Market Basket and Whole Foods. Do you know when the ones without carrageenan will be available here? I’m so happy you are taking this initiative but I’m considering switching to a carrageenan-free soymilk just because they consume such large amounts of it.

Hi Victoria,

Many people are reporting that they’re already finding the carrageenan-free Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk Beverages at their local stores. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you a specific date that you’ll see it at your store, as so much of it depends on regional distribution and how quickly each individual store sells through existing inventories. We really do appreciate your patience with this process, and we can assure you that you’ll see the new version in stock very soon. Thank you for being a loyal fan of So Delicious Dairy Free!

This is great news!! I’ve been waiting to give up cows milk, but refuse soy of all types in our home/consumption.s we also have tree nut, peanut and sulphite allergies to exclude from our diets. No carrageenan means I can venture into coconut milk. I’m hoping the coconut is sulphite/sulfite free. I will email so delicious!! Thank you so much for listening and responding to your customers. Wow!! Soo impressed!! Can’t wait for carrageenan free to hit our grocery shelves! Thank you kindly.

Sandy

Thanks so much for listening. I was so happy to see this. Love love your coconut milk sadly and reluctant I stopped buying it. I resorted to making my own nut milk. Every time I went to the stores I would pick up a box to see if carrageen for removed. And I would not give up hoping for a change that’s how much I love your products. So thanks again

As a sufferer of IBS, additives like carageenan and guar gum cause myself and many like me to suffer ill effects after consuming them. While it is regarded as safe, it can cause digestive upset in some, and I am thankful to hear your company is removing it. I recently learned after 19 years of acne that milk has been the culprit. Because so many milk alternatives contain guar gum and or carageenan, there’s nothing I can substitute :(

Kari, they took out the carrageenan and added guar gum. It doesn’t look any better from our sensitivities.

Hi, Sierra! Guar gum is a fiber from the seed of the guar plant. It is used in our products as a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent. Our creative coconut team is always looking for new and different ingredients for our products. We are committed to our roots of providing our fans with delicious products that are vegan, Non-GMO Project Verified, kosher, and whenever possible gluten-free and organic.

Is your almond milk plus going to be carrageenan free soon?

Hi, Rebecca! We are working on removing carrageenan from our refrigerated coconut milk beverages first and will then remove it from other refrigerated products, including almond milks. Our current challenge is swapping out packaging which is taking longer than expected. Thank you for your patience as we make progress towards our goal of removing carrageenan from all products!

I hope the new milk is on Oklahoma shelves soon! My son has drank about 24 oz of this milk everyday for almost two years. I haven’t seen any cartons without carrageenan yet. Trying to find an organic milk that is dairy and nut free without it is difficult. He loves your milk. Thank you for listening and responding to customer concerns.

Hi, Dana! Thank you for your comment. We’re so glad to hear that your son is a fan of our products! Our new carrageenan free vanilla and unsweetened vanilla coconut milk beverages are in distribution and are starting to hit store shelves now. Unfortunately, we don’t have exact dates on when these products will hit shelves in your area. We will keep our consumers updated to our best ability! If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email our consumer services team at info@sodeliciousdairyfree.com. Thank you!

My entire family drinks So Delicious Vanilla Coffee Creamer but stopped a month ago due to this ingredient. I am anxiously awaiting for the re-release of your coffee creamer without carrageenan so we cam start enjoying our coffee again!

Hi, Danielle. Thank you so much for being a fan of our products! We’re currently working on reformulating and creating carrageenan free alternatives to all of our products. Stay tuned for more information on our new carrageenan free products!

I am concerned about all the information I have been reading about carrageenan. I noticed that your soy yogurt contains carrageen. this concerns me because I have been eating your yogurt for over a year. Please clear this up for me. I apprectiate it.
Christine

Hi, Christine. Thank you for your comment. We actually don’t have a cultured soy product. We do make cultured almond and coconut milk, and we’re pleased to say that some varieties of these products are carrageenan free. You can find a list of carrageenan free products here: http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/files/so-delicious-carrageenan-free.pdf

Also, as an update, we’re working to remove carrageenan from our full line of products. Our first carrageenan free coconut milk beverages – Vanilla and Unsweetened Vanilla – are in distribution and are starting to hit store shelves. Back at our offices, we are working on making changes to other products in our line. If you have additional question, please contact our consumer relations team at info@sodeliciousdairyfree.com. Thank you!

When will we see the vanilla coconut milk and the coffee creamers with out carrageenan

Hi, Peggy! Thank you for checking in. Our new carrageenan free Vanilla Coconut Milk is in distribution and is starting to hit store shelves now. We’re working on reformulating our refrigerated beverages first and will move on to our creamers next. Stay tuned for more information!

Jennifer Chaney Murtaugh

Thank you for listening and developing carrageenan free products! Can’t wait for the French vanilla creamer! My favorite!

Thank you for your comment, Jennifer! We love listening to our wonderful fans.

You should know by now that when an additive has the “blessing” of the FDA, it is meaningless regarding the safety of the item. The FDA in in the pocket of the big corporations. Fortunately consumers still have a little control with their pocketbooks. I discovered my “sensitivity” to carrageenan several years ago. At first I thought it was soy milk. So I switched to coconut milk and it did the same thing (abdominal pain/headaches). I made my own coconut milk and eventually realized it was the carrageenan. It took years to figure it all out. (and many thousands of dollars to the medical community) I can’t be the only one. How many others suffer with IBD and will never figure it out! I am curious to know what other food additive you have replaced it with?