What is carrageenan? Has anyone of us heard of it in our day-to-day chores or about the daily happenings? The answer would most probably be a no. But sooner or later this would be the word on everyone’s lips. Why? Read this article below to know more.
Carrageenan belongs to its family of polysaccharides which are taken from seaweeds. It has a wide use in the industry concerning food, primarily for its thickening and gelling properties along with them being commendable stabilizers. The prime area of focus is the dairy and the other commodities for their strengthening and binding properties.
The gelatinous extractions of the seaweed it is extracted from has been in use as addictives in the food industry since the early fifteen century. Then came carrageenan came as a vegetative substitute to gelatin inmore than some aspects before taking over it comfortably replacing it in the food industry.
Going into the chemical properties of the carrageenan, they are structured as large and highly versatile helical formations. This property actually helps them to take a wide kind of different shapes at the normal room temperature.
There are different types of red algae and seaweeds that help in the production of different types of carrageenan. Though most of them can be dissolved in mild or hot steam but only one and two types are noted to be soluble in cold water. The carrageenan used in the food commodities and products are referred to as processed seaweed. So on the technical terms, carrageenan is seen as a fibre product.
Carrageenan was discovered and put to use somewhat around 1930s on a large industrial scale with its first ever known experimental use in China at around 600 BC and around 400BC in Ireland. Carrageenan gelatin has been in use at the normal homes since times immemorial. The procedure follows a complex procedure where the caraageenan is briefly heated before being cooled for around 24 hours to turn itself into a gelatinous substance .As of the last global survey done, carrageenan is sold at the market for a global estimate of about $640 million with Phillipines being its chief producer where carrageenan production is responsible for 80% of its world production. China with its huge production is the prime exporter of carrageenan in the world. The most basically noted sources of carrageenan production are E.spinosum and E.cottonni. These cultivate at about a few metres deep from the surface of the sea water. These seaweeds are cultivated for over three months where each plant grows to a weight of 1 kg. After the harvestation is complete, the seaweed are collected and dried out in the sun before being transferred to the manufacturing machine. The seaweeds are washed thoroughly and grounded to remove any kind of impurities on them. Then the seaweeds are chemically treated before being sent for the final industrial processing.
Main uses of Carrageenan
Because of the physical properties of carrageenan and its structure, the uses of carrageenan has gone to a huge extent. Starting from food products like milk and other products, to products for external use like cleansing products, carrageenan is used everywhere.
It remains as a surprise that not many people are aware of it because carrageenan is a very useful product which is prevalent in almost everything that surrounds us and is consumed by us on a regular and daily basis.
- Condensed milk, processed milk and other milk products all have in them the presence of carrageenan.
- Sauce: of various kinds. Carrageenan helps in making the sauces thick so that they get the texture which they generally have when we unpack the bottles or cans. Without it, the sauces would be watery and not a great stuff to dip your chips in.
- Beer or alcoholic beverages; carrageenan helps in reducing or removing entirely the presence of proteins which cause a feeling of confusion or what we usually call “haziness”. Without carrageenan, drinking beer would result in more number of people often appearing confused.
- Processed meat: in replacement of proteins or fats, carrageenans are added to processed meats (of ham and beef). Carrageenan is especially useful in making these kinds of processed meat softer and easier to slice. The content of fats and proteins are also increased, along with increase in the amount of water the meat can take up.
- Toothpaste: if carrageenan was absent from toothpastes, then the stuff we put on our toothbrushes would be dry and crumpled. Carrageenan helps in retaining the paste-like texture of toothpaste, making it usable in the way we use them.
- Fire extinguishers: The foam which we see come out of fire extinguishers, help to kill fire by sticking to the surfaces and not letting fire get bigger. The properties of fire extinguishers which help the foam remain in its form, and be sticky in nature, are acquired by the presence of carrageenan in the solutions. Without it, the fire extinguishers wont be as useful.
- Shampoos and conditioners: carrageenans help in giving the texture of the shampoos and conditioners.
- Biotechnology: Carrageenan is extremely useful when it comes to the research in the field of biotechnology. As the field is growing by making new advancements and achieving the unachievable, carrageenan continues to play a pivotal role in it. Carrageenan forms the gel which is used to make the cells or enzymes stay put so that they could be easily studied.
- Pet food: Carrageenan have also made their way into your pet’s favorite food. They are present in almost all kinds of food products which are designed specifically for your cats, dogs and other four-legged buddies.
The uses of carrageenan does not end here. The list can go on and on. But our main aim to achieve from this article was to make you and the others who are reading this article be aware of carrageenan and its importance.
We only hope that we were able to add a bit to your extensive knowledge, a little about this helpful little buddy of ours.