Carrageenan remains on USDA's National List

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic food Seaweed

The Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines has welcomed the news that the USDA has kept carrageenan on its list of ingredients allowed in organic foods after a mix-up last year nearly saw it removed from the list.

The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances details 28 non-agricultural ingredients that are allowed to be used as ingredients in foods labeled organic or made with organic ingredients, and is reviewed every five years. The list includes carrageenan, as well as agar agar (also from seaweed), animal enzymes, mined calcium sulfate, and glucono delta lactone, among others, but all of these had their permitted status put in jeopardy last year.

Carrageenan is widely used as a food ingredient in the US, as an emulsifier or stabilizer, particularly in dairy products and sauces, and in beer as a clarifying agent. The Philippines produces more of the seaweed ingredient than any other country, and its Seaweed Industry Association is said to be pleased that the ingredient – which is in high demand in the US because of growing consumer preference for organic foods – has been kept on the list.

But ingredients are automatically removed unless the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has reviewed the ingredient, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has renewed the ingredient’s status. When carrageenan and the four other ingredients entered a sunset provision phase, no public comments were made. This meant that although there was no evidence that the ingredients posed any environmental risk, they were not accepted for re-listing.

However, in the eight weeks prior to the NOSB meeting, “numerous comments were received requesting that these materials be re-listed,” ​the board said and all five ingredients were eventually included for another five-year period, from November 2008.

Demand for carrageenan has seen the ingredient’s price skyrocket over the past few years. Eleven percent of the Philippines’ carrageenan exports from 2000 to 2006 were sent to the USA, according to figures from the Seaweed Industry Association.

The full National List can be accessed online here​.

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