Dairy processors say it is not that easy to use carrageenan alternatives

Dairy Foods | November 9, 2016
By David McCoy, Dairy Insights LLC

A new third-party blind survey of dairy food and beverage professionals making formulation decisions reflects the contradictions dairy processors face when choosing stabilizers and thickeners for dairy products.

Carrageenan is a widely used stabilizer in dairy foods to deliver

important characteristics such as product consistency and mouthfeel in everything from ice cream to chocolate milk.

Currently, a recommendation by a handling subcommittee of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) suggests that carrageenan be removed from a list of nonorganic ingredients allowed in organic food as it is not “essential” despite the fact that the stated alternatives are neither organic nor work as well as carrageenan.

Critics contend that alternatives can replace carrageenan; however, the respondents in this survey emphatically disagree.

In an independent survey conducted by Clear Seas Research [Editor’s note: a unit of BNP Media, the publisher of Dairy Foods], carrageenan was chosen as the clear “essential” choice for most survey participants, with only xanthan gum a close competitor.

Carrageenan is easy-to-use, effective in dairy products

Carrageenan was compared to xanthan gum, locust bean gum, gellan gum and an “other” category. Carrageenan ranked significantly higher in ingredient preference over both locust bean gum and gellan gum, and far surpassed gellan gum in terms of additive performance and functional characteristics and its overall essentiality rating. Carrageenan stood out as an ingredient that is both easy to use and highly effective in dairy product formulations.

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed

The survey drew responses from 69 professionals who participated in a detailed, lengthy discussion of carrageenan and its relationship to other additives. The respondents in the survey represented a variety of job functions in the dairy industry from plant managers to formulators, with 94% having at least shared responsibility for food additive decisions. These are people who carefully evaluate food additives and they are fully aware of the basic facts about carrageenan:

• It is derived from red seaweed that is sustainably harvested by farmers in places like Indonesia or The Philippines
• It is classified by the NOSB as “non-synthetic,” as opposed to some competing products classified as “synthetic”
• It does not alter taste or color and is readily available
• It has an extensive, well-established, safety profile and has been used successfully for decades and, in its raw seaweed form, for centuries
• It has been studied, reviewed and approved by scientists, review panels and regulatory agencies all over the world

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