Best Food Facts recently received a reader question from Margie asking, "Why is carrageenan added to so many dairy foods? My daughter is allergic."
To answer the question, we reached out to Dr. Roger Clemens, Adjunct Professor, Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical Sciences, USC School of Pharmacy.
"Carrageenan is a type of carbohydrate (hydrocolloid) derived from Irish Moss. There are many forms of carrageenan, each with its own unique function in foods. In general, carrageenan creates a weak gel in foods. This gel improves the texture (body), stability and smooth mouth-feel of ice cream and beverages, an array of dairy products (e.g., yogurts and kefirs), and assures cocoa suspension in chocolate milk and similar products.
"With respect to food allergies and specific reference to carrageenan, the clinical evidence suggests that not all forms of carrageenan induce inflammatory responses. Of course, as a safety precaution, if your daughter has been clinically diagnosed with a hypersensitivity to this food ingredient, it should be avoided. Avoidance can be accomplished by reading product labels and their ingredient declaration statement."
Do you have a food question? Feel free to submit a question and we'll have an expert respond!