What Is Carrageenan (E407)? Types, Uses, Safety, Side Effects

What Is Carrageenan (E407)? Types, Uses, Safety, Side Effects


Table of Contents

Carrageenan (E407) is a functional food additive. The name is derived from the algae Chondrus crispus, and is a naturally-occurring sulfated polysaccharide. It is used in foods for its gel forming and stabilizing properties. It is often used as an emulsifier in dairy products and ice cream to give it a smooth consistency. Carrageenan (E407) also has many other uses in food applications.

What is carrageenan?


Carrageenan is a family of highly sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from red seaweeds. They are widely used in the food industry as gelling agents, thickening agents, stabilizers, and emulsifiers.

Carrageenans can be divided into two main types: iota-carrageenan (Iota) and kappa-carrageenan (Kappa). The names refer to the type of molecules that make up these gels. Iota-carrageenan is made up of one large molecule (called a polysaccharide), while kappa-carrageenan is made of many small molecules called esters. The smaller molecules are more soluble in water than the larger ones, which means they gel better at low temperatures.

What are the types of carrageenan?


Three types of carrageenan are known: kappa, iota, and lambda. Each type has a different molecular weight and structure. These differences in size, shape and chemical composition give each type different properties for food use.

Kappa carrageenan is the most common type of carrageenan used in food products and is considered safe by the FDA. It’s produced from red seaweed called “Chondrus crispus” that grows in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland. Kappa carrageenan can be extracted from two different sources: Iota Carrageenan

Iota carrageenan is extracted from a type of seaweed called “Chondrus crispus” that grows in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland and France. Iota carrageenan is also known as “Irish Moss”. Lambda Carrageenan

Lambda carrageenan is produced from seaweed with a high proportion of D-galactose units, which gives it strong water-binding properties (so if you use this type in something like chocolate pudding, it will help keep its shape).

The following are the appearances of semi-refined and refined kappa.

The following is a comparison of semi-refined water gel and refined water gel.


Semi Refined (left) VS Refined (right) kappa Gel

Iota carrageenan structure



In addition to being called I carrageenan, it also contains two ester sulfates that can react with calcium ions to form a soft and elastic gel that is free of syneresis and has excellent freeze-thaw and re-healing properties.

Since it is partially soluble in cold water, it can be used to make soft gel capsules and jelly.

The following are the appearances of semi-refined and refined Iota.


Semi Refined (left) VS Refined (right) Iota Powder

The following is a comparison of semi-refined water gel and refined water gel.


Semi Refined (left) VS Refined (right) Iota Gel

It is common to combine kappa and iota in products such as ice cream and air freshener gels.

lambda Carrageenan structure



With three ester sulfates in its structure, Lambda cannot form gel with salts and only functions as a thickening agent for adding viscosity & body to food. Compared to K and I types, it is less commonly used in food applications.

As it reacts with milk, it is commonly used in chocolate milk.

What is carrageenan in food?


Carrageenan is a food additive used as an emulsifier and thickener to add texture to food products. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), carrageenan is safe for use in food.

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweeds, which grow along the coastlines of North America and Europe. The seaweed is dried and ground into a fine powder that resembles talcum powder. The powder can be mixed with water to make a gel, or it can be boiled with other ingredients to make a thickener or stabilizer for various foods, including ice cream, yogurt, puddings and even toothpaste.

Carrageenan has been used for hundreds of years in various types of products including dairy products like cheese and yogurt as well as canned meats such as canned tuna or chicken noodle soup.

The FDA has approved carrageenan for use in foods such as chocolate milk and frozen desserts because it prevents the ice crystals from forming in these frozen treats that would otherwise make them crunchy when they melt in your mouth. It also helps keep the oils from separating out of the liquid during freezing so that they don’t separate out when you eat them

What are carrageenan used for?


Carrageenan is used as a thickener and stabiliser in food products. It’s a natural product made from red seaweed and can be extracted from two different types of seaweed, Chondrus crispus and Gigartina mamillosa.

Carrageenan has been used for centuries in food production, but only in the last few decades has it come under scrutiny by health experts.

It’s used in everything from ice cream to yoghurt, custard to canned meats and sauces. You’ll also find it in toothpaste and mouthwash.

Carrageenan is used in these products because it’s extremely versatile – it can be used at high temperatures without losing its effectiveness or dissolving into liquid form. It also has a high tolerance for acidity (pH levels between 1-11), which makes it useful for stabilising food products that contain both acidic and alkaline ingredients during processing (such as salad dressings).

How is carrageenan made?

Based on the different manufacturing processes and raw materials, each type of carrageenan can also be classified as semi-refined and refined.
  1. Processes: the refined carrageenan is solubilized to remove the cell walls of the seaweed, while semi-refined carrageenan is made by alkaline treatment, without extraction and filtration, which contains a cellulosic matrix.
  2. Raw material: Semi-refined material is only available from Eucheuma Seaweed.

While semi refined contains up to 15% cellulose, both are primarily potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium sulfate esters of galactose and 3,6-anhydrogalactose.

Here are the brief steps in manufacturing kappa carrageenan, which are similar to those of iota.

Semi Refined Flow Chart


E407a is the E number for semi-refined carrageenan, also known as processed eucheuma seaweed. The following steps are involved in obtaining it:

  • Seaweeds
  • Cleaning to remove sand and salts
  • Cooking with hot water and saturated brine (potassium chloride) at 70-80°C for a short time. It is impossible to dissolve or extract carrageenan at this temperature, but it is possible to remove impurities with low molecular mass.
  • Decoloration
  • Rinsing in water
  • Chopping
  • Drying
  • Grinding
  • Packaging

Refined Extraction Process

  • Seaweeds
  • Using water to clean off sand, salt, and other foreign materials
  • Paste is made by cooking seaweed in hot water (90 °C)
  • Removing cellulose and other impurities through filtration
  • Syrup
  • Jelification
  • Pressing
  • Water is removed from the solution by washing it in potassium chloride and then removing it through syneresis
  • Pressing
  • Drying
  • Grinding
  • Packaging

What are the application of carrageenan?


A wide number of food applications have been made with carrageenan, such as meat, dessert, candy, chocolate milk, beer, ice cream, pet food, etc. Carrageenan has many advantages, including being naturally derived, compatible with other food ingredients, easy to use, and economical.

Carrageenan is diluted with sugar and mixed with other food grade hydrocolloids and salts to produce different gelling or thickening properties.

Both refined and semi-refined carrageenan products are sometimes available.



In meat products such as ham, sausage, corned beef and luncheon meat, carrageenan is primarily used. About 60%-70% of its total consumption is accounted for by market share.

For tumbling or injection processes of meat, kappa carrageenan is most often used in meat with high brine gel strength and fine particle size.

Usually, meat is applied in three ways: injected/tumbled, emulsified, and canned.

Injected Meat

Whole meat products, such as chicken meat, are soaked in a brine solution containing water and salt.

Kappa carrageenan, semi-refined or refined, is often used as a thickener, binder, and stabilizer to improve meat texture, retain moisture, and increase weight yield.

In general, 0.5% – 1.5% of total ham weight is used.

Tumbled Meat

It provides excellent water-holding properties, a soft texture, uniform consistency, and excellent water-holding properties when semi-refined Kappa and Iota carrageenan is used.

A common amount is 1.0 – 2.0% of the total weight of the sausage.

Emulsified Meat

Using semi-refined kappa and Iota carrageenan can stabilize fat-protein emulsions, improve sliceability and mouthfeel, improve water-holding capacity (increase yield), provide freeze-thaw stability, soft texture (tenderness and juiciness), and provide high gel strength.

It is commonly used between 0.5 and 1.5% of the total weight of the sausage.

Water Dessert


By refining kappa, iota, or combining them, we can produce transparent, adhesive, and highly/moderately elastic water desserts with minimum syneresis.



The gel is formed by combining fruit juice, sugar, carrageenan, or another gelling agent. In jelly products, properties such as viscosity, gel strength, texture, clarity, and syneresis are important.

In the production of jellies or puddings, carrageenan, agar agar and gelatin are commonly used as gelling agents.

Can carrageenan be used to make water dessert jelly?

  • Step 1: Weigh the ingredients: Sugar (20%), Carrageenan (1%), Citric acid (0.15%), Sodium benzoate (0.1%), Sodium citrate, and water
  • Step 2: Mix dry ingredients with carrageenan
  • Step 3: Mix the premix with the rapidly agitated water.
  • Step 4: Heat to 80°C to 85°C while continuously stirring.
  • Step 5: Take the pot off the heat and add the Citric Acid at 70°C. After stirring, pour into cups and let cool.

Gummy Candy


Gummy candy is a chewy product with a high sugar content. Sugar content, texture, and elasticity are important in gummy candy. Ingredients include water, sweeteners, gelling agent, color and flavorings. Carrageenan provides desirable elasticity of chewy candies, minimal syneresis (the process by which a gel loses moisture as it dries), and is suitable for vegans who do not use gelatin as a gelling agent.

When combined with other hydrocolloids such as konjac gum and gum arabic, carrageenan can be used to create different textures, including firm but elastic gummies similar to commercial candies like Starbursts.

How to produce gummy candy with carrageenan?

  • Step 1: Weigh ingredients: Glucose (40%), Sugar (25%), Carrageenan (1.5%), Trisodium citrate (0.3%), Citric Acid (0.5%), Flavor (appropriate), Color (appropriate) and Water (make 100%).
  • Step 2: Combine half of the sugar with the carrageenan and trisodium citrate.
  • Step 3: In a saucepan, dissolve glucose and half the sugar in water and bring to 60 oC while stirring.
  • Step 4: Continue cooking the sugar-carrageenan premix until boiling while continuously stirring.
  • Step 5: Add color
  • Step 6: Continue cooking the solution until it reaches 76-80°C.
  • Step 7: Adding citric acid and flavor.
  • Step 8: The mixture must be thoroughly mixed before it can be poured into the mold at a hot temperature.
  • Step 9: Cool and solidify.

Chocolate Milk

As carrageenan interacts with milk proteins, it can keep cocoa and milk suspended in chocolate milk. As well as providing excellent mouthfeel, it imparts a homogeneous appearance to cocoa and milk.

How to produce chocolate milk with carrageenan?

  • Step 1: This is the weight of ingredients: Sugar (8%), Skimmed Milk (5%), Full-Creamed (5%), Cocoa Powder (1%) , Chocolate Flavor (suitable), Color (suitable), Carrageenan (0.03%) and Water (make 100%).
  • Step 2: Mix milk powder with water and dissolve
  • Step 3: Mix dry ingredients
  • Step 4: Mix dry ingredients with milk solution
  • Step 5: Pasteurization
  • Step 6: Cooling and agitation


Carrageenan, when used in the brewing process, can improve wort recovery, yeast vitality and beer clarity; decreases production cost and time by minimizing the use of filter aids.

Dairy Beverage

Dairy blends typically contain kappa and/or iota carrageenan with high milk protein reactivity. You can find it in yogurt, cottage cheese, coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk, for example.

A creamy mouthfeel and a good flavor release are provided by these specially-formulated products.

Ice Cream

Carrageenan is used in ice cream to produce smooth and homogeneous gelation. It also functions as a stabilizer, ensuring that the end product has a fine, uniform structure that is creamy and chewy. It interacts with casein to prevent the formation of large ice crystals. Carrageenan can be used in combination with other gelling agents such as locust bean gum, guar gum, and sodium alginate.

How to use carrageenan powder to produce ice cream? 

  • Step 1: Weigh the ingredients: sugar (15%), milk (10%), butter (8%), carrageenan (0.6%), glucose (4%), water (make 100%)
  • Step 2: Combine sugar, carrageenan, and milk (Premix 1).
  • Step 3: Mix glucose and butter in lukewarm water.
  • Step 4: Combine Premix 1 with Premix 2 with rapid agitation.
  • Step 5: Heat to 70-80 oC in a water bath for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring.
  • Step 6: Using a hand-held homogenizer, homogenize for 15 sec.
  • Step 7: Place the solution in an ice bath and cool it to 15.5 oC.
  • Step 8: Determine the viscosity of ice cream (before aging) at 15.5°C with a suitable spindle.
  • Step 9: Let the solution age overnight at 4 oC.
  • Step 10: Calculate the viscosity of ice cream (after aging) at 15.5oC using the appropriate spindle.
  • Step 11: Freeze the solution until it forms a creamy texture.
  • Step 12: Place ice cream in a clean container and place it in the freezer.

Pet Foods

There are a variety of pet foods available, including dry, canned, semi-moist, and snacks such as biscuits, kibbles, and treats. It is primarily used for the feeding of dogs and cats.

The polysaccharide carrageenan can bind meat particles, provide homogeneity during pet food processing, contribute to uniform moisture levels, ease unmolding and give canned foods an excellent sheen.

It is used in canned pet food around 1-2% of the total weight (contains 70-80% moisture).

Ingredients in Pet foods

  • Liquid: Water, meat broth
  • Meat byproducts, poultry byproducts, seafood byproducts, grains and soybean meal are the main components.
  • Stabilizers and gelling agents: Carrageenan, bean, agar agar, guar gum, cellulose and starches


Carrageenan prevents oil/water mixtures from separating and makes toothpaste smooth by acting as an emulsifier and thickener.

What’re the health benefits of carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a substance extracted from seaweed that serves as a thickener and emulsifier in food and other products. It’s also been used for thousands of years in medicine, particularly in the treatment of digestive problems.

Carrageenan may reduce intestinal inflammation by preventing the absorption of large molecules that are toxic to the digestive tract. This effect can help reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Carrageenan has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the colon and prevent ulcer formation in animal studies. In addition, it may help lower cholesterol levels by preventing bile acids from reabsorbing into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall.

Carrageenan is often added to foods like yogurt, ice cream and chocolate milk as a thickening agent. It’s also used in cosmetics because it forms stable gels without affecting color or taste.

Is carrageenan safe to eat?

There is no doubt that it is safe as it has been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Using carrageenan as a fat substitute, stabilizer, thickener, binder, and texturizer is safe under 21CFR172.620.

  • Baked goods
  • Dressings
  • Frozen desserts
  • Confections
  • Cake and dessert mixes
  • Dairy products
  • Pudding and gelatin mixes
  • Jams and jellies
  • Sauces


Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 specifies carrageenan (E407) and processed eucheuma seaweed (E407) as authorised food additives.

Safety re-evaluation in 2018

The studies of carrageenan’s genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive, developmental toxicity, and others revealed no adverse effects, but due to insufficient data, e.g. its different food-grade molecular weight distribution and stability in food, EFSA concluded its current acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 75 mg/kg bw per day is temporary and will be reviewed in five years (by 2023).

UK Food Standards Agency

They are classified as “emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, and gelling agents”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

As in Europe, it has the code numbers 407 and 407a in Australia and New Zealand.


In the functional class of food additives, we find emulsifiers, gelling agents, stabilizers, thickeners, and gelling agents.

According to the JECFA in 2014, the maximum level of refined carrageenan in infant formula for special medical purposes is 1000 mg/L.

What is carrageenan side effects?

Carrageenan is a seaweed extract that has been used in food and other products for centuries. It’s found in many foods, including dairy products, meat products, processed foods, beverages and even baby formula.

Carrageenan side effects range from mild to severe, depending on the dosage consumed. The most common carrageenan side effects include:

Nausea and vomiting

Abdominal pain or cramps


Mucus in stool

Gastrointestinal bleeding

How is carrageenan bad for you?

Carrageenan has been used for decades, but research suggests that it may be harmful to your health.

A study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that ingestion of carrageenan can cause intestinal inflammation similar to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The researchers concluded that “carrageenan-induced intestinal inflammation provides a valid animal model of human IBD” and that “carrageenan-induced enteritis [inflammation] may be useful for studying this human disease.”

The researchers also found that carrageenan caused colonic ulcers which led to bleeding in the colon when exposed to high doses of carrageenan over time. They concluded that “when administered at high doses or repeatedly over time, carrageenan is capable of inducing colon ulceration and bleeding in rats.”

FAQ about carrageenan

Development of intestinal inflammation

Research from 2017 found that carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and carrageenan may cause inflammation in the intestines.

According to a 2018 report, more research is needed to determine the levels of public exposure in our food, the relationship between carrageenan and inflammation in the colon, and the controversies associated with it.

Does carrageenan cause cancer?

No. Researchers discovered in 1982 that degraded carrageenan or poligeenan causes cancer in animals.

In contrast to carrageenan, the degraded form is not a food additive and is not used in any food applications. While they are different, the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan is always mistaken for carrageenan.

Is carrageenan safe for pregnant?

Yes, It is generally safe, but you should consult your doctor before using it under certain circumstances.


People who are sensitive to carrageenan may experience allergy symptoms and intolerance symptoms. There is evidence that carrageenan may cause IgE-mediated reactions in cases of unexplained food allergies.

Final thought:

Thank you for reading What Is Carrageenan (E407). In this article we discussed what is carrageenan, what is carrageenan used for, and if it is safe/natural. We also discussed how it can be used in food applications and ingredients. We hope that you were able to learn and know more about this ingredient. This will help you decide whether or not you want products with this ingredient in your diet.

if you have any other thought about this item Let me know in the below comments.

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng

Sophie Feng is the author of gradechemical.com, she is the co-founder of the grade chemical network. She has been in grade chemical company since 2017, with a working knowledge of food chemical .

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