THE Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP), being the lead group in the Asean Seaweed Industry Club, will capitalize on its network in Southeast Asia to gain support for its ongoing fight to keep carrageenan in the list of approved additives in organic food.
“We will leverage this access to gain support from the region’s influential groups and experts to back up the industry’s side,” said SIAP president Maximo Ricohermoso.
He said SIAP will consult a scientific group to counter the anti-organic and health issues claims against carrageenan, in coordination with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and bring the matter up to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Philippines and Indonesia are among the biggest producers of seaweed in Southeast Asia.
Early this year, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) started reviewing recommendations of the US National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) on carrageenan and the other substances that were considered in the sunset review.
In a 10-3 vote last Nov. 17, 2016, the NOSB voted to remove carrageenan from the list of materials “approved for use in organic food.” The final and binding vote, though, will be by the USDA.
By November 2017, the USDA is expected to publish proposed rules on the use of carrageenan in organic food. There will be a 30-day comment period on the proposed rules. The deadline for publication of the USDA’s final rule is on Nov. 3, 2018.
“Stakeholders are raising a strong drive against such negative campaigns by competitors and anti-carrageenan advocates,” said Ricohermoso, adding that this issue stands to affect over 300,000 seaweed farmers in the Philippines.
He said the impact of this issue has been felt many months ago due to social media campaigns by organics advocates.
“The organic food market is less than 10 percent but the NOSB decision may also affect the natural and processed food application,” the industry player said.
Ricohermoso said the seaweed/carrageenan industry is projecting a challenging 2017 following the dismal performance last year due to the slow growth of major economies. Cheaper prices of carrageenan have also hurt seaweed exports.
However, amid these challenges, the industry remains optimistic as its stakeholders continue to explore new markets and new applications for carrageenan.
New applications underway are in nutraceuticals, health care, cosmetics and many other industries. Carrageenan demand for these new applications is much greater than current usage, said Ricohermoso. (KOC)