Marinalg International, the organization supporting sustainable seaweed farming and the seaweed based hydrocolloid industry, agrees with the Proposed Rule by the National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to renew the approval of carrageenan, a common food stabilizer, as an ingredient in American organic foods. The rule would codify a recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board regarding carrageenan.
“Seaweed is farmed on six continents and is critical to the economic growth and stability of emerging countries”
The basis for the NOP's Proposed Rule to continue carrageenan use without restriction is the result of a comprehensive review of science providing strong evidence concluding that the processing and production of carrageenan from red seaweed is non-synthetic. The production of carrageenan is carefully controlled under alkaline conditions to avoid degradation or chemical changes during isolation and purification. This minimal process relies on water, heat and lye to produce the major types of naturally-occurring carrageenan that differ in structure and food-processing characteristics with a broad range of functionality that enables solutions to pressing food issues including fat and sugar reduction, expansion of protein availability and reduction in food waste through shelf life extension.
Common to other ingredients, the approval came as part of a standard five-year ingredient sunset review by the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, established by the Organic Food Products Act of 1990 to examine ingredients allowable in foods labeled as 'organic'. The decision to relist carrageenan as a non-synthetic ingredient for use in organic food reaffirms carrageenan as a safe food ingredient.
Carrageenan has been approved for use in food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization and many other regulatory authorities throughout the world. Those organizations have examined decades of science devoted to this ingredient, relying on scientific evidence that carrageenan, when ingested with food, poses no health risk to humans.
These same organizations, particularly the FDA, have rejected the conclusions of some recent experiments with isolated cells that allege adverse health effects and rely instead on well-established science that more closely mimics the way human beings consume carrageenan in foods as a natural stabilizer, gelling agent and emulsifier.
William B. Matakas, president of Marinalg, said, "We are gratified that after thorough reviews by the FDA and the USDA, carrageenan continues to be recognized as a safe and important ingredient in organic foods in the United States. Carrageenan is consumed by millions of families throughout the world each and every day and has been for a very long time. The experience of that continued use, coupled with careful science, is clear evidence that carrageenan is worthy of its place in organic milk, ice cream and other food products."
Carrageenan is a natural soluble fiber product of red seaweed and a natural ingredient that has been used in cooking for hundreds of years throughout the world.
It is currently harvested by seaweed farmers primarily in Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines, supporting more than 30,000 farming families in practices that are models of sustainable aquaculture. Seaweed production does not require fresh water, arable land or fertilizer and increasing its production does not create competition for food production any where in the world.
"Seaweed is farmed on six continents and is critical to the economic growth and stability of emerging countries," said Matakas. "Seaweed farmers want for their families the same things all of us want - economically viable opportunities to ensure the health, safety and education of their children. Seaweed farming is not only environmentally sound and sustainable, it is transforming lives and livelihoods in hundreds of coastal communities."
Carrageenan, in addition to being used as a food stabilizer, has widespread applications in pharmaceuticals, as well as personal care and dietary products. The use of carrageenan enables the export of countless products by preserving their texture, structure and stability.