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  • Origin: It is produced from natural sources that are not further chemically treated.

Carrageenan, designated as E407 in food labeling, is a polysaccharide extracted from red seaweeds. It is primarily used for its gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties in various food products. This compound is known for forming strong gels with calcium ions and softer gels with potassium ions, making it versatile in food applications.


Carrageenan is of natural origin, sourced from specific types of red seaweed such as Chondrus crispus, Eucheuma, and Gigartina. The general production process involves harvesting the seaweed, drying it, and then extracting the carrageenan using an alkaline process, followed by purification and concentration.


  • Thickening Agent: Provides viscosity to liquids, making them thicker.
  • Gelling Agent: Forms gels of various textures, depending on conditions.
  • Stabilizer: Helps maintain the uniform dispersion of ingredients in food products.
  • Emulsifier: Assists in blending ingredients that typically do not mix well, such as oil and water.
  • Water Retention: Helps retain moisture in foods, improving texture and shelf life.

Uses in Ultra‑Processed Foods

Carrageenan is extensively used in ultra‑processed foods for the following reasons:

  • Stabilization: Carrageenan prevents separation in chocolate milk and plant‑based milks, ensuring a uniform consistency and texture. In protein shakes It stabilizes protein particles, ensuring a smooth and consistent drink.
  • Texture Enhancement: Improves the texture of ice cream by preventing ice crystal formation, resulting in a smoother product. It also enhances the texture of deli meats and sausages, making them easier to slice and more palatable.
  • Moisture Retention: Helps retain moisture in bread and pastries, extending their shelf life and keeping them soft.
  • Gel Formation: Carrageenan is used in gummies and jellies to provide a desirable chewiness and stable gel structure. In marshmallows it contributes to the soft and fluffy texture by forming a stable gel.
  • Emulsification: Aids in emulsifying ingredients in beverages like juices and smoothies, preventing separation of the liquid and solid components. It helps blend oils and water‑based ingredients, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture.
  • Fat Reduction: Carrageenan is often used to mimic the mouthfeel and texture of fat in low‑fat and reduced‑fat products, providing a satisfying eating experience without the additional calories.

Health Considerations

While carrageenan is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), some health considerations and potential risks have been identified:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Some studies suggest that carrageenan can cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, potentially exacerbating conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Food Allergies: Although rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to carrageenan.
  • Potential Degradation: Degraded carrageenan (poligeenan) may pose higher health risks, including intestinal inflammation and ulceration.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: One study suggests that eliminating carrageenan from the diet may enhance insulin signaling and glucose tolerance. However, larger studies are required to more comprehensively assess the impact of carrageenan on the development of type 2 diabetes.
  • More Research is Needed: The majority of studies have been conducted on animals and more research is needed to determine the risks. 


  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2023). Food Additives Status List. Retrieved from FDA website.
  2. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2018). Re‑evaluation of carrageenan (E 407) and processed Eucheuma seaweed (E 407a) as food additives. EFSA Journal, 16(4), e05238.
  3. McKim, J. M., Willoughby, J. A., Blakemore, W. R., & Weisbroth, S. H. (2019). Review of the toxicology of carrageenan with emphasis on human exposure and dietary intake. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 75, 105‑121.
  4. Tobacman, J. K. (2001). Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(10), 983‑994.
  5. Feferman, L., Bhattacharyya, S., Oates, E., Haggerty, N., Wang, T., Varady, K., & Tobacman, J. K. (2020). Carrageenan‑Free Diet Shows Improved Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Signaling in Prediabetes: A Randomized, Pilot Clinical Trial. Journal of Diabetes Research, 2020, 8267980. doi: 10.1155/2020/8267980. PMCID: PMC7191375, PMID: 32377523.