Carrageenan seaweed a red algae

Seaweed in My Soymilk?
Are You Kidding?

Nope. It's called carrageenan.

Carrageenan is a food additive derived from several species of red algae, a seaweed. The name carrageenan comes from the Irish town made famous by the women living there, who boiled the seaweed and used it to thicken puddings and sauces.

The primary source of carrageenan is Chondrus crispus, or Irish moss, which lives on the rocky shores of oceans in the temperate regions of the world. Traditionally it was harvested from the wild, but today it is also cultivated commercially, particularly in Asia.

Carrageenan is a "natural" ingredient that is used as thickening, stabilizing, gelling, and binding agents in many foods, including baked goods, cottage cheese, chocolate milk, low-fat ice cream, puddings, soymilk, and some types of meats. It also has excellent moisture binding capabilities and for this reason is also used in industrial and cosmetic applications such as toothpaste. Read what Tom's of Maine has to say about carrageenan.

It was approved as a food additive by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1961 and falls under the category GRAS or generally recognized as safe. Carrageenan has also been used as a fat substitute in some foods since the 1990s.

In recent years there has been some concern over its use as a food additive in soymilk. Some studies have shown that a chemically degraded form of carrageenan may be carcinogenic; however, food grade carrageenan is almost always "undegraded". Read more about this here.

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