Food Science

Why do we need food science?

Simply put, food science matters because food matters. How can we keep food fresh and nutritious for thousands of miles? How can we make sure food tastes the way it’s supposed to? How can we make good ingredients even better? These are the kinds of questions scientists ask to keep our world going.

Sound food science and safe food ingredients developed by expert food chemists and food biologists have been making healthy, nutritious foods available to people everywhere for decades. Without food science, thousands and thousands of the products you find in an everyday grocery store simply would not exist.

Food science allows your bread to be both crunchy and fluffy, your yogurt to stay creamy and intact, and your pudding to be low-fat without sacrificing that indulgent texture. Without it, a majority of the foods that look so delicious would appear discolored and bland. Your almond milks and ice creams would separate. And the nutrients in your infant formula or protein drink wouldn’t be uniformly delivered in each sip. Only food science can address these challenges. Stirring and shaking your food when you eat isn’t a practical way to deliver a food experience.

What are emulsifiers, texturizers and stabilizers?

An emulsifier is a protein or phospholipid that lets oils and fats mix with their counterpart – water. Emulsifiers, like lecithin derived from soybeans, affect the structure and texture of foods and keep them looking, feeling and tasting like they’re supposed to. When an emulsifier is added to a food that contains both an oil and water, the emulsifier’s hydrophilic (water-loving) side bonds with water and the hydrophobic (oil-loving) end bonds with the oil to form a smooth, homogenous (uniform) substance.

Without an emulsifier, the oils/fats and water in foods like mayonnaise, ice cream, chocolate, margarine and some salad dressings would separate and leave you with a product that is unappealing and useless. Separated ingredients spoil much more quickly.

Much like emulsifiers, texturizers and stabilizers provide foods with stability, texture and consistency. Carrageenan stabilizes the emulsions once formed. It also contributes to the texturizing and stabilization of foods and beverages. Texturizers like microcrystalline cellulose, an ingredient derived from wood pulp, are used to improve texture and stability in food, which help them maintain their structure while providing a creamy feeling in the mouth.


What is carrageenan?

Carrageenan, a soluble fiber derived from red seaweed, is a natural food ingredient that has been used for hundreds of years in cooking all over the world. It often replaces synthetic and animal-based products. Carrageenan from FMC is certified as both halal and kosher. It is also commonly used in vegetarian and vegan diets and lifestyles.

What does carrageenan do to my food?

Carrageenan is one of nature’s perfect stabilizers, offering benefits in texture, structure and physical appearance to foods and enabling the delivery of a more indulgent product, even for those foods that may have lower calorie, salt, sugar or fat content.

It enables the suspension of chocolate in chocolate milk, a creamy texture in lower fat yogurt, lunchmeat that remains moist and fresh and the extension and protection of the nutritional value of protein.

How is carrageenan made?

Carrageenan requires minimum processing and can actually be extracted from seaweed in any home kitchen, much like the Irish did hundreds of years ago. The process involves simply cooking seaweed with a little salt, adding a bit of alcohol and then mixing it in a household blender to release the natural carrageenan. The process is mild and preserves the functionality already in the seaweed. The effect of processing increases the amount of usable carrageenan in the seaweed, minimizing waste.

Is carrageenan safe?

An overwhelming body of evidence supports the conclusion that carrageenan is safe and suitable for use in food.

Regulatory authorities in every region of the world including the United States, Europe, China, Japan and Brazil have found carrageenan safe for use in food.

Most recently, in July 2014, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), “concluded that the use of carrageenan in infant formula and formulae for special medical purposes for infants up to concentrations of 1000 mg/L is not of concern”. The committee reviewed all studies, including those claiming negative effects of carrageenan, and concluded that carrageenan was safe, even for those most vulnerable in our population—infants.

In addition, experts from the World Health Organization have placed carrageenan in the best possible category for any food additive, noting it “does not in the opinion of the committee represent a hazard to health.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found carrageenan to be non-carcinogenic. It also doesn’t cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

What foods contain carrageenan?

Carrageenan can be found in a number of foods you eat every day, including yogurts, cheeses, chocolate milk and almond milk, ice cream, salad dressing, jams and jellies, hotdogs, and more. It can also be found in personal care products like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, body soaps, face wash, makeup, and more.

Why is carrageenan in pet food?

Carrageenan is used in wet forms of dog and cat food as a stabilizer or emulsifier, bringing a consistent texture and feeding experience. The same high-quality carrageenan enjoyed by many of us in ice cream, yogurt and other foods in used in the pet food industry.

Is carrageenan safe in pet food?

Millions of dogs and cats enjoy wet pet food every day that includes carrageenan as an ingredient without incident or any evidence of harm. Any claim suggesting otherwise is entirely unsupported by any evidence and runs counter to the overwhelming body of evidence supporting its safety in food and animal feed.

Is carrageenan in my toothpaste?

Toothpaste manufacturers rely on hydrocolloid companies to provide stabilizing solutions for their oral hygiene products. Carrageenan is one of those important hydrocolloids used to stabilize toothpaste and ensure that the active ingredients do not separate. Carrageenan has been used since the 1930s in foods and cosmetics to improve texture and stability. Food-grade carrageenan is an entirely safe and appropriate ingredient for toothpaste.

For more information on the history of carrageenan click here.

For more information on the science of carrageenan click here.

For more information on the sustainability of carrageenan click here.

For more information on the nutritional benefits of carrageenan click here.

To download a carrageenan Fact Sheet and Q&A

Click Here

To download a carrageenan one-page summary

Click Here

To download understanding Poligeenan

Click Here

Cellulose Gel

What is cellulose gel?

Cellulose gel, occasionally referred to as microcrystalline cellulose (MCC) or simply ‘cellulose’ on some food labels, is a refined plant fiber, most often derived from wood pulp.

Cellulose gel is a universally accepted and plant-based stabilizing ingredient, widely used in foods, pharmaceuticals and specialty applications like personal care products. It is valuable in food applications because it maintains stability through a wide range of temperatures, making products shelf stable and more sustainable.

What is cellulose gel used for?

It is used as a texturizer, an anti-caking agent, a fat substitute, as an extender or emulsifier and as a bulking agent. It is used most commonly in food and pharmaceutical processing. It is often used to as a stabilizer in dairy drinks. It also prevents shredded cheese from clumping and ensures the consistency of pharmaceutical applications in items as common as cough syrups and daily vitamins.

How is cellulose gel made?

Cellulose gel is derived from naturally occurring cellulose similar to that found in plants, fruits and vegetables. When you eat a stalk of celery, for example, you are consuming this kind of plant fiber. You could make cellulose gel from corncobs, sugar cane or other, more valuable food sources. The crystalline fibers of cellulose gel are more commonly and more efficiently derived from sustainable wood sources. FMC makes cellulose gel from only certified forest sources.

What is the safety record of cellulose gel?

Cellulose gel has a very long history of safe use in both the food and pharmaceutical industries. It has long been approved by global food regulatory agencies as a food additive. Cellulose gel is not digested and passes from the stomach to the intestines.

Is cellulose gel an organic ingredient?

It is not an organic ingredient. It is universally regarded as a safe synthetic ingredient by food regulatory authorities throughout the world.

What kind of foods and other products have cellulose gel as an ingredient?

If you buy foods that have reduced fat or calories you will often see cellulose gel, microcrystalline cellulose or cellulose listed as an ingredient. It is also used in cheeses, sausage casings and other food and pharmaceutical applications that are common in both your pantry and medicine cabinet.

Cellulose gel reduces moisture loss in cooking and maintains food structure during cooking processes. It also keeps baked goods moist and fresh for longer periods. In pharmaceuticals and personal care products like shampoo it provides stability and texture advantages.

Natural Colors

What are natural food colors?

Natural food colors are dyes and pigments derived from nature that provide foods with deliciously appealing colors people expect when consuming a specific food or beverage. Lack of color is often a sensory cue that is associated with a food that is bland or even spoiled. Added colors actually contribute to the sensation of taste for many people including children.

How are natural food colors made?

Natural colors are extracted from plants, fruits and vegetables and can come from a variety of sources, including paprika, saffron, lycopene from tomatoes, beta-carotene from carrots and chlorophyll found in plants.

Are natural food colors safe?

The natural food colors produced by FMC have been tested thoroughly and have been approved for use in food by regulatory authorities.

What foods contain natural food colors?

All kinds of foods contain added colors. Things like beverages, cereals and snacks, dairy, dry mixes, ice creams and thousands of other common products contain colors derived from natural ingredients.