CarrageenanTypes andUsage in Food and Dairy Industry

Carrageenan is a food additive that is extracted from red edible seaweeds knows as ‘Chondruscrispus’. It ispopularly used in the food industry for thickening and stabilizing purposes. Since they are vegan in nature, they are often used as an alternative to gelatin.

Types of Carrageenan:

Since the concentration found in different seaweeds varies according to the species, they are differentiated as per the sulphate groups that are attached to the galactose unit.

  • Kappa has one sulphate group and produces a strong gel which is brittle in the presence of potassium ions. They mostly used stabilizing dairy products such as cheese and ice cream.
  • Iota has two sulphate groups and forms soft elastic like gelin the presence of calcium ions and used in soy milk products or in salad dressings.
  • Lambda has three sulphate groups but does not form a gel. It is used mostly as a thickener in sauces and syrups to give a creamy texture.

Uses in the food industry

  • In bakery and confectionery for gelation and moisture binding in desserts, ice creams, yogurts, etc.
  • In beer, sodas and fruit juices to improve taste and texture
  • In meat processing to increase the moisture content.
  • In pet foods for fat stabilization
  • In syrups and sauces for thickening.


Apart from being used as a food additive, it is also used in many other products such as toothpaste, shampoo, air freshener, tablets and pills, etc.

Are there any risks?

There are two types of carrageenan based on the chemical content. While degraded carrageenan (poligeenan) can be cancerous, undegraded carrageenan has been allowed by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to be used as food additives.

While it is being used as a binder and emulsifier in various food products, it may be harmful if the allowed intake is exceeded. But when used within the permitted limits, it can be used to prepare mouth watering and sumptuous dishes; all vegan so, no complaints!

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