USA – The U.S. federal executive department, USDA has ruled that the use of carrageenan as an emulsifier in organic foods like ice cream and high protein drinks is acceptable despite recommendation from the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB), its advisory arm to withdraw the approval.
Carrageenan is used in high-protein beverages to keep the liquid smooth and well mixed and in ice creams by giving it a desirable mouthfeel.
In 2016, members the board voted to ban the carrageenan used as a thickening agent in food, an ingredient marred with controversies, some scientists placing evidence that it causes digestive inflammation.
However, other researchers have not been in a position to duplicate those findings and argue that the ingredient is safe and extremely effective in helping to hold food items like ice cream and baby formula in suspension.
A fight from organic food companies to continue using the carrageenan based on an argument that it was safe and there were no alternatives to its use as a natural emulsifier.
USDA ruled on continued use of the additive citing its necessity for handling agricultural products because of the unavailability of wholly natural substitutes.
“Carrageenan has specific uses in an array of agricultural products, and public comments reported that potential substitutes do not adequately replicate the functions of carrageenan across the broad scope of use,” states the Federal Register.
Those opposed to its use including the Cornucopia Institute, Consumers Union said the decision by USDA undermine the integrity of the USDA Organic label
It is not the first time USDA and its advisory body are disagreeing.
In March, the US administration revoked animal welfare regulations that required organic farmers to give their egg-laying hens more room to roam outdoors.
While the animal welfare issue received wide support from organic farmers and food companies including the Organic Trade Association, the carrageenan issues continue to be opposed by the parties.
Some have expressed their perceptions that the presence of carrageenan in organic food weakens the perceived power of the USDA Organic food label.