Ever wondered why some people look fresher than others when arriving at work in the morning? Ever asked what it is that makes your toothpaste so creamy and your face lotion so smooth?
It was rather a small detail that called my attention when reading this article. To be honest, there is certainly something to the name “organic triple-strength seaweed collagen” but it wasn’t because of the triple-strength that I decided to have a closer look at the mentioned face cream. Given that I had the pleasure to visit some seaweed farming areas two weeks ago in Indonesia and the honour to meet and talk to some distinguished personalities within the sector, I was wondering what the word “collagen” was doing there.
Collagen, best known as Gelatine, is a gelling agent derived from animal proteins. Polysaccharides used as a hydrocolloids (gelling agents) won from seaweed are either Carrageenan or Agar. The ones used in industrialised countries predominantly come from Indonesia and the Philippines, where red seaweeds (agarophytes of the genera Gracilaria and carrageenophytes of the genera Euchema) grow in the warm waters surrounding SE Asia. Most brown seaweeds that have similar characteristics and are likewise used as gelling agents, grow in cold waters (e.g. Ireland, California, China).
After harvest, the seaweed is being dried, cleaned, washed, dried again and then processed to a powder which is commercially traded as an ingredient in various industries (see below).
There are typically two different processing methods to extract Carrageenan from the seaweed and one for Agar, which I won’t describe in more detail. For those interested in the processing methods, please read here for Agar or Carrageenan.
Agar and Carrageenan are not only used for gels and cosmetics, they find a variety of applications as thickeners and gelling agents in the food industry, in medicine, pet food or as lubricants in different sectors.
You might be surprised to hear that you likely use some seaweed every day when brushing your teeth in the morning? Not so much if you knew that the gelling characteristics of seaweeds have been appreciated for hundreds of years in Japan, where according to a legend the original manufacturing method of agar was presumably discovered in 1658, and also in Ireland, where the use of Irish Moss seaweed has first been documented at around 1810.
With that in mind doesn’t it disturb you that we know so little about the production of seaweed and the origins of ingredients in products we eat or apply on a daily basis? Isn’t it a pity that a company “specialised in organic mineral rich products” isn’t aware of the fact that seaweed and collagen don’t relate to one another?
This boy might not be wondering so much about the use of carrageenan but rather about what the plans of Tony Abbott to scrap the carbon tax in Australia will do to climate change and his future (Photo: globalvisionremixed.wordpress.com)
Well, at least you and I know a bit more now. And who knows, maybe tomorrow you’ll also have a smile on your face arriving at work and thinking about the carrageenan in your toothpaste or the people growing and harvesting seaweed to make it happen.