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Carrageenan industry exploring new industrial applications

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seaweed farm
REUTERS

THE Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) said new carrageenan applications have improved the industry’s prospects after a safety scare.

“We are always developing new carrageenan applications especially in industrials, pharmaceuticals, and food,” Maximo A. Ricohermoso, chairman of SIAP, said in a mobile message.

Mr. Ricohermoso said that industry stakeholders are looking into seaweed applications in paper and organic plastic for packaging. Seaweed can also be processed to serve as a binder for syrups and capsules.

Carrageenan is a food additive extracted from red seaweed, and its use in some edible applications has raised safety concerns, particularly over the risk of cancer.

The US National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted in 2016 to drop carrageenan from the list of approved organic products after it found that other ingredients can be suitable substitutes, such as gellan gum, xanthan gum, and guar gum.

In April, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will keep carrageenan on the list of approved products, saying that the product meets the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA).

“Carrageenan has specific uses in an array of agricultural products and public comment (solicited during the USDA proceedings) reported that potential substitutes do not adequately replicate the functions of carrageenan across the broad scope of use,” the USDA said in its 2018 Notification of Sunset Review.

Mr. Ricohermoso said that “there is not much movement in the seaweed industry so far,” but noted that “it seems stable with good future prospects of stability and hopefully growing modestly every year.”

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) — Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAANRRD) said in October that it has conducted experiments in Regions II, III, VII and IX for the use of Carrageenan Plant Growth Promoter (PGP) in mung bean and peanut.

The Carrageenan PGP is registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) as an inorganic fertilizer for rice.

Carrageenan PGP inventor Lucille V. Abad said third-party industries to mass-produce carrageenan PGP are still needed. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio