Carrageen comes in two forms: food-grade and degraded. For several decades, food-grade carrageenan has been used in the food and cosmetic industry. Its main role is to thicken, emulsify, or bind ingredients. Degraded carrageenan is not used in these two industries. Thus, is you see carrageenan in your food or cosmetic products, this means that are they are in the food-grade form.
Types of Food-Grade Carrageenan
Food grade carrageenan comes in a variety of types and the question is carrageenan safe or not has been a recent concern. As per FDA assessment, food grade carrageenan is safe for human consumption in the form of food additives and gum bases. The three basic types of food-grade carrageenan include kappa, iota, and lambda.
Kappa carrageenan is soluble in hot water and is used as a gelling agent. It is typically used in 0.02 to 2.0%. Kappa is slightly opaque and it becomes clear with the addition of sugar. Iota is also soluble in hot water. Sodium iota is soluble in cold water as well. It is an elastic and clear gel, which can be frozen and thawed. Just like kappa, it is insoluble in a majority of organic solvents. This is usually utilized in amounts of 0.2 to 2.0%. Lastly, the lamba carrageenan is a free flowing type, which is non-gelling solution. It is fully soluble in hot water while only partially soluble in cold water. It is also insoluble in organic solvents. Its usual level of utility ranges from 0.1 to 1%.
No matter what type of food carrageenan it is, it is safe for human consumption since there are regulations regarding the use of this substance, just as with any other food additive. The question, “is carrageenan safe?” is something that has been answered by the FDA long ago and the answer is yes.