Pet Food Ingredients
on December 8, 2008

Carrageenan: for appearance's sake only?

What is this quiet, unassuming ingredient, and should it be there?

In the world of food for pets, no different than with food for people, there are a number of additives used to enhance a product's presentation--some obvious and some not. One less obvious ingredient used in canned food applications is carrageenan. This ingredient is added to help form a loaf (meatloaf), retain moisture in the loaf and bind the contents together so they slide from the can intact. This ingredient is often lumped into the category of gels and thickeners, which "foodies" call hydrocolloids.

Carrageenan's sole purpose is to enhance the appearance of the product and create a consistent mix of meat and other ingredients from top to bottom. But exactly what is this quiet unassuming ingredient, and should it be there?

Irish Moss

The name carrageenan may be new to many, but the ingredient has been around quite a while. The earliest applications were reported some 600 years ago as a seaweed extract from Chondrus crispus , also known as Irish Moss, used to gel milk products.

Carrageenan didn't become a commercially viable ingredient until after World War II. Today it is found in a wide variety of foods. Most akin to petfoods are applications in processed meats wherein carrageenan is used to increase moisture content and provide mouth feel and texture, especially in low-fat meats.

Red seaweed

Like most food hydrocolloids (hydrophilic colloid) carrageenan is a branched-chain carbohydrate. It is a galactan sugar extract from red seaweed. In the AAFCO Official Publication 2008 , it is listed under…

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