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Questions & Answers
Frequently Asked Questions
What is carrageenan and alginate?
Both carrageenan and alginate are two natural stabilisers extracted from seaweed. Both are highly effective water binders that allow the texture, mouthfeel, and overall appearance of the product to be customised to the needs of the consumer.
What are the advantages of both the alginate and carrageenan?
Alginates are typically used in applications that need to harden/gel in cold conditions. A gel made from alginate and calcium is thermally irreversible. Most carrageenans require thermal treatment to dissolve and then gel. Carrageenan gel is always thermally reversible.
When should we choose kappa, iota or a lambda carrageenan?
It all depends on what you expect from your final product:
- Kappa carrageenan makes a hard and brittle gel
- Iota-carrageenan makes an elastic gel
- Lambda-carrageenan gives a nice smooth, highly viscous texture
In many cases, these three qualities are used in adapted combinations depending on the application. Some carrageenans are cold soluble and most of the properties require cooking to be dissolved.
Why are additional gelling salts, sugars, and sequestrants added to preparations made from carrageenan and alginate?
The quick and obvious answer is: to achieve low cost. The more specific answer is that the added gelling salts and sequestrants allow to produce a self-gelling alginate system. The added salts and sugars and the gelling salts facilitate the dispersibility of the carrageenan and optimise the gelling behaviour.
What are the typical concentrations of carrageenan and alginate in food products?
Both substances are used in very low concentrations. The actual concentration depends on the type of product and the actual application. The concentration is about 0.03% in chocolate milk and from 0.3% to 0.8% in meat products.
How much water can carrageenan and alginate bind?
Carrageenan and alginate are both extremely effective and strong water binders. Depending on the texture required, they can bind up to between 50 and 200 times their own weight in water.
Can carrageenan tolerate low pH values?
Yes, under the right conditions. For example, carrageenan will degrade and lose functionality if it is subjected to prolonged high temperature and low pH treatment. However, it does not lose functionality if it is exposed to high temperature and low pH for a short time.
How should alginate be labelled?
Each customer is responsible for their own labelling. The issue often arises when sodium alginate (E401) is added to a food that has been gelled with a calcium source, as it converts to calcium alginate (E404). The question can be simplified; should we label the added alginate (E401) or the ingested alginate (E404)? EUROGUM recommends labelling all the ingredients we declare on our datasheet.