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. For the past year, we’ve been working very hard on reformulating our coconut milk beverage line to remove carrageenan.
It isn’t easy work to recreate recipes or produce them on a large scale. 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. We are very pleased with our progress and have been sampling our new carrageenan-free recipes with consumers and retailers to get their feedback on our improved coconut milk beverages. We will continue our sampling with food reporters and critics to get their input, too. We are working on new packaging now and are aiming to have the first of our new products in stores by early 2014. Just so you know, we already have many products that do not contain carrageenan.
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.
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.