One of the most common questions we get here at FoodFacts.com has to do with the controversial ingredient carrageenan. The questions take on a variety of forms, but the basic idea is “What’s wrong with carrageenan, it’s just seaweed, right?” The quick answer is “Nope, wrong.” Carrageenan isn’t seaweed. It’s derived from seaweed and therefore considered a “natural” ingredient. Carrageenan is extracted from the seaweed with an alkaline solution like potassium hydroxide (used to manufacture soaps, batteries and cuticle remover solutions, as well as in the refining of petroleum and natural gas). In short, chemicals are used to produce Carrageenan.
Carrageenan, used as a thickener and emulsifier in foods and beverages, will be phased out from Horizon and Silk products over time, said Sara Loveday, a company spokeswoman.
The ingredient has been the subject of criticism in some circles, with natural-food advocates pointing to animal studies that suggest it causes gastrointestinal inflammation and other problems.
Loveday says WhiteWave still thinks carrageenan is safe, but decided to remove it because customer feedback has been so strong.
“When you get to a certain point of how vocal and strongly a consumer feels about it, we felt it was time to make a change,” she said.
It’s just the latest example of a food maker removing an ingredient customers found objectionable. Regardless of whether an ingredient is safe, companies are finding themselves under growing pressure from customer sensitivities about ingredients, especially given their ability to mobilize on social media sites.
WhiteWave, based in Broomfield, Colorado, did not immediately detail when the ingredient would be phased out of various products. But in a communication with Hari that was shared with The Associated Press, the company said carrageenan will be removed from Horizon flavored milked in the first quarter of next year. It will be removed from all other Horizon items such as eggnog, low-fat cottage cheese and heavy whipping cream, by the second quarter of 2015, the statement said.
The ingredient will be removed from its top five Silk Soy and Coconut drinks by the second quarter of 2015 and other Silk products in 2016.
FoodFacts.com is thrilled with this great news! Carrageenan is an ingredient that confuses so many consumers because it is considered natural, no matter how it is produced. It’s great to see a major manufacturer listening to consumer voices and removing it from their popular products. Consumer voices count. There’s more and more proof of that every day. We know that the consumers who are speaking their minds about carrageenan will express their approval for this move by WhiteWave with increased loyalty for their favorite products. And we know that WhiteWave will set the tone for other manufacturers to step up to the plate and follow suit.