Are You Consuming This Very Controversial Organic Ingredient?

Written by Max Goldberg on May 2, 2013. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

choc-milk-carrageenan

There is an incredibly controversial ingredient in the organic industry called carrageenan.

If you’re not familiar with it, carrageenan is a common food additive extracted from red seaweed that is often used as a thickening agent (chocolate milk, soy milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream), a substitute for fat, and a stabilizer for beverages that separate and must be stirred or shaken (the carrageenan makes stirring or shaking no longer necessary). It can also be found in deli meats and prepared poultry items.

Carrageenan adds no nutritional value or flavor to foods or beverages  but carries very, very serious health risks. What are they?

Animal studies have repeatedly shown that food-grade carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors.

And for the past four decades, scientists have repeatedly warned that carrageenan is not safe.

It is bad enough that the FDA allows carrageenan in our food supply, but the fact that it is approved for organics is even worse.

When we buy organic, we expect a much higher degree of quality and safety compared to conventionally-grown food.

However, this quality can be compromised when many of the “Big Organic” companies successfully lobby the National Organic Standards Board to approve controversial ingredients, such as carrageenan.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1) Sign and Share the Petition  The Cornucopia Institute, an amazing organization and one of the organic industry’s most important watchdogs, has put together a petition demanding that the FDA remove carrageenan from the food supply.

Click HERE to sign the petition, and please share this with your network.

2) Stay Educated  Read Cornucopia’s excellent and comprehensive report on carrageenan.

After reading this research, you won’t want to touch carrageenan ever again and will be looking at labels much, more closely from here on out.

3) Vote with Your Dollars and Shop Wisely  One of the very first interviews I ever did on Living Maxwell was with Joel Salatin, the most famous organic farmer in the U.S. and star of the movie Food, Inc.

What he told me three years ago still holds very true today – every single day we get to vote with our dollars.

If you’re not happy with the kind of ingredients that a company is using, don’t purchase their products and call these companies to let them know your displeasure. The dollar is a very powerful tool to create change.

One great way to protect yourself and your family is by looking at Cornucopia’s Carrageenan Shopping Guide.

Not only does it list all of the products and brands that are using carrageenan, but it provides comparable alternatives.

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The only thing that I can say about carrageenan is that I won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

Please share this post with your friends and family, so they too can make informed decisions about what they are putting into their bodies.

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21 Comments

  1. Besides making my own almond milks etc. are there any non dairy beverages that are ok to drink? This is all so bloody frustrating. You can’t do right for doing wrong or something like that.

    Written by Lul on May 2, 2013 @ 9:21 pm
  2. Yikes! I make my own almond milk too, but I do grab a box or two to have on hand for those mornings when we’re out.

    Heather

    Written by Heather @Gluten-Free Cat on May 2, 2013 @ 10:08 pm
  3. Excellent post Max. I didn’t know much about carrageenan, but I’ve been avoiding it. I just prefer “real” whole ingredients that’s found in nature. Carrageenan, maltodextrin and all other added stuff in foods I tend to avoid, nothing beats fresh fruits/vegetables/nuts/seeds.

    Written by Mariam Turay on May 2, 2013 @ 11:33 pm
  4. It’s important for Organics to remove such ingredients which could harm consumers in short or long run. Such actions by Organic industry will help to build confidence of the consumer towards Organics.

    Great Max!

    Organically….

    Amol

    Written by Amol on May 3, 2013 @ 2:44 am
  5. Hi Lul,

    Above, there is a link to a Carrageenan Shopping Guide for products that do not contain this ingredient. Not to worry, there are plenty of them on the list.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 3, 2013 @ 8:11 am
  6. Glad it was helpful Mariam!!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 3, 2013 @ 8:16 am
  7. Thank you Amol!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 3, 2013 @ 8:17 am
  8. Hi Max,

    Hope you are having a good day! Thank you for the article about carrageenan! I was looking at an organic product that states the following about the carrageenan they use.

    “Some of our products contain carrageenan, a thickening agent that is extracted from seaweed. All of the carrageenan we use is undegraded or nondegraded which has been proven to not cause any adverse health effects.”

    Is this safe?

    Thank you!
    Jason

    Written by Jason on May 3, 2013 @ 12:40 pm
  9. Thank you so much for this post! This will be a tremendous help during future grocery shopping trips : )

    Written by Bonnie Greene on May 3, 2013 @ 1:52 pm
  10. Hi Jason,

    The carrageenan that I refer to in the article is what you are refering to as “undegraded”. I don’t touch the stuff.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 5, 2013 @ 3:29 pm
  11. Sure thing Bonnie!!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 5, 2013 @ 3:29 pm
  12. Hi Max-I see this ingredient all the time. Now I am the wiser. Thanks for a great and informative post! I signed the petition and will pass the word on . . .

    Written by lori kirby on May 8, 2013 @ 4:40 pm
  13. My pleasure Lori!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 10, 2013 @ 11:09 am
  14. I would love to win a case to assist with my transformation into a better lifestyle which has begun with a 30 day reboot!

    Written by Angela wortham on September 17, 2013 @ 11:10 am
  15. Peace Love and Blessings To You!!!!
    Love This…..

    Written by Patricia McBride on September 17, 2013 @ 4:04 pm
  16. Max, thanks for the article. It is frustrating when you try and stay away from dairy due to health issues, that some coconut and almond yogurts contains this by-product.

    I wonder why they don’t substitute another thickening agent like agar instead of this controversial one.

    Written by Anna@Green Talk on October 21, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
  17. So I got caught up in this a bit awhile back and jumped on the negative bandwagon until some of our crew looked into it and as far as we could tell Cornucopia is the only site that states these bad effects. It has been hypothesized that the dairy industry is behind this negative campaign as it makes non-milk milk-substances thicker (thereby more attractive). I wonder what could be so harmful coming from seaweed (process of extraction, what?). I’m not definitively sure if its good or not (although I’m still consuming my organic hazelnut milk which contains it, in the meantime) but I would caution a fuller investigation instead of taking one source’s conclusions. Who are they funded by and what is their agenda. Questions and more questions. This really deserves a deeper look. Tell me what you find out if you do.

    Written by Kathee Lavine on October 21, 2013 @ 3:29 pm
  18. Kathee,

    Oftentimes, how a product is processed is the very thing that causes the problems. The extraction process is incredibly important.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 22, 2013 @ 3:39 pm
  19. […] from cow’s milk. Guar gum, carrageenan and tapioca starch (just to name a few) have gotten their fair share of controversy in terms of their impact on […]

  20. Regarding the safety of carrageenan, there has been an amazing amount of misinformation being blogged about carrageenan being unsafe as a food ingredient. In spite of this misinformation, carrageenan continues as the safe food ingredient it has always been. If it were not, the principal regulatory agencies of the world (US FDA, FAO/WHO JECFA, EU EFSA, and Japan Ministry of Health) would not approve its use, and all of them give the necessary approvals. The only application restricted as a precautionary measure is stabilizing liquid infant formula and a definitive toxicology is about to be published that is expected to remove this restriction.
    Why all the concern about the safety of using carrageenan in foods? Starting in the 1960s there have been research studies showing that if excessive doses of carrageenan are consumed in animal trials inflammation can be induced in the small intestine. Likewise, inappropriate methods of introducing the carrageenan into the animals, i.e. in the animals’ only source of drinking water, have induced an inflammatory response in the small intestine. However, there has never been a validated inflammatory response in humans over the seventy plus years carrageenan has been used in foods. The anecdotal “upset tummies” reported in blogs as coming from consuming a food containing carrageenan are hardly
    reliable sources of information on the safety of carrageenan.
    Inflammatory responses in animals only occur when carrageenan can cross the blood membrane barrier of the small intestine. This only occurs when the extreme feeding conditions mentioned above are employed. Normal feeding regimes induce no such response.
    Over the last decade a group of molecular biologists at the University of Illinois at Chicago lead by Dr Joanne Tobacman have been exploring the in vitro interaction of carrageenan with various genes and conclude that carrageenan can cause inflammation in the gut via a binding mechanism involving TLR-4 receptors. This group also concluded that carrageenan degrades in the gut and the degraded carrageenan can permeate the membrane barrier. Recent studies refute both of these claims, and furthermore this recent research questions the validity using in vitro studies to mimic the in vivo events in the GI tract when a human consumes a food containing carrageenan.
    The bottom line on the safety issue is that in spite of all the efforts to downgrade or question the safety of carrageenan, particularly by bloggers, carrageenan is a safe food ingredient in all of the major regulatory jurisdictions of the world.

    Written by Ingredients Solutions on July 21, 2014 @ 11:05 am
  21. […]  Living Maxwell has a great explanation of why carrageenan is so controversial.  Go to livingmaxwell.com/carrageenan-health-risks for more […]

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