On Carrageenan, and Other Gums and Emulsifiers

You know what they say about ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Try this one: carrageenan.

So, it isn’t that hard – but you know what they’re getting at. The more letters and prefixes, the more likely the ingredient is to be some scientific creation.

What is carrageenan, exactly? It belongs to a family that we call “gums and emulsifiers.” Basically, these are ingredients (usually non-nutritive) used to keep a beverage from falling apart, and make it seem more substantial than it is. They give the mouthfeel, thickness, and stability consumers want… with an asterisk.

While these gums and emulsifiers come from plants – making them officially “plant-based” – they offer very little. Their one job is to mimic a milk-like texture. Guess what? We draw this from the source ingredients themselves.

Carrageenan is the bad boy of this bunch. It comes from seaweed, and has been subject to debate regarding its safety. Some studies have suggested inflammatory side effects of carrageenan.2

Does this sound simpler or better to you? You’re not alone.

In 2016, the National Organic Standards Board – a federal advisory committee composed largely of industry experts – voted to remove carrageenan from a list of approved organic ingredients. This meant that foods with carrageenan could not be labeled “USDA Organic.” The FDA has since overruled, but the Board’s decision helped legitimize the uncertainty.3

So, in the ElmhurstTM view: Is carrageenan safe? The fact that this is a common question is enough for us. It’s only right to be carrageenan-free.

Because of our unique HydroRelease™ method (and commitment to less as more), all Elmhurst™ products are clean – free of not only carrageenan, but all added gums and emulsifiers. Our process breaks down the raw ingredients, releasing the oils and micro-components that yield creaminess. We use these, and nothing extra, to create a naturally milk-like texture.

Outside of that tricky carrageenan, identifying these gums on their ingredient labels is not too difficult. Look for things that say… gum. These may include:

  • Xanthan Gum, made from fermented sugar – though the sugar source may vary and be allergenic;
  • Guar Gum, derived from the guar bean, and also used for hydraulic fracking of natural gas;
  • Gellan Gum, also made from bacterial fermentation; and
  • Locust Bean Gum, extracted from the seeds of the carob tree.3

All of these additives are common in food – including other plant milks – and technically deemed safe. We are not going to fuss over the studies and debates too much. For us, it’s pretty simple. We want you to relax in the knowledge that, whatever the risk level of carrageenan and other gums, Elmhurst™ isn’t using them.
And never will.

 

 

1 John Moody, “6 Most Common Gum Additives in Food: Which Ones to Avoid,” The Healthy Home Economist, 5-30-18
2 Dan Charles, “Carrageenan Backlash: Food Firms Are Ousting a Popular Additive,” NPR, 12-12-16
3 The Cornucopia Institute, “NOSB Vote to Remove Carrageenan from Organic Food Overruled by Trump USDA,” April 2018

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