The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards Board recently voted to remove carrageenan from the list of substances approved for use in organic foods during the board’s 2017 sunset review process. Carrageenan is a natural food additive derived from seaweed that is used as a thickener, stabilizer and texturizer in traditional and organic foods, such as cream, flavored milk, yogurt and ice cream.

Every five years, the board decides whether to continue to allow the use of these ingredients under a "sunset provision" that mandates the review process. The board considers several criteria, including the impact of the substance’s use on human health, the processors’ need for the substance and its compatibility with organic production and handling.

The use of carrageenan in both organic and non-organic foods has been called into question in the past few years, but IDFA believes the opposition is based on a misunderstanding of scientific facts. The Food and Drug Administration, which has federal food safety responsibility for ingredients, has reviewed carrageenan several times over the past decades. The agency has repeatedly concluded that carrageenan is a completely safe food additive.

IDFA Supports Keeping Carrageenan on National List

To remove it from the National List, USDA’s National Organic Program will need to propose a regulation for its removal and provide a notice and comment period. IDFA has supported the use of carrageenan in the past and likely will submit comments in favor of keeping carrageenan on the National List. The board’s decision will not affect the use of carrageenan in non-organic foods.

The board also reviewed agar-agar, animal enzymes, calcium sulfate-mined, glucono deltalactone, tartaric acid, cellulose, potassium hydroxide, silicon and betacarotene extract, but none of these substances were proposed for removal.

For more information, contact Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs and counsel, at