A dangerous ingredient that hides in many organic products – Carrageenan

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I am very glad to be following healthy living blogs, such as Rawmazing. Although I am not a raw foodist, I like to check out recipes and foods from all kinds of lifestyles – paleo, vegan, raw, etc. A recent post from Rawmazing piqued my attention and you should read it if you are interested because it deals with a common raw ingredient “irish moss” – although I have not used this ingredient before, I have come very close to buying it on more than one occasion. I am now happy I haven’t. Apparently, carrageenan is derived from irish moss and although the negative effects of it are lesser in irish moss, they are still there.

“It seems that carrageenan can cause inflammation (one of our greatest enemies) and intestinal distress. Even more alarming, when carrageenan is extracted from the irish moss, this form of carrageenan has been associated with human cancers.” – Susan

Let’s talk a bit more about carrageenan because this is an ingredient I had no idea about before reading Susan’s post. Although I read labels, some things on the labels I tend to skip over, simply because I assume they are fine – especially when it is included on an organic product! Wrong, so wrong.

Carrageenan is a seaweed-derived ingredient used to create a better texture in many low-fat dairy and dairy-alternative products. This includes commercial AND organic products. This additive helps keep different ingredients in suspension so they don’t separate, eliminating the need to shake the product before you consume it. It is often found in in things like chocolate milk, sour cream, creamers, yogurt, ice cream, and juices. (source) Carrageenan so reliably causes inflammation that scientists actually use it to induce inflammation in biological experiments. It has been used for 50 years and it continues to be used in food products.

“In a recent statement to the National Organic Standards Board, Dr. Tobacman explained that carrageenan itself and its breakdown product both create dangerous inflammation, a condition that serves as the backbone of more than 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis. Inflammation also fuels other life-threatening diseases, including cancer.” (source)

Susan also included a list of products which do and do not contain this additive. I went through the list and I was very sad and disappointed to see some of the products I currently purchase on the list of items that do contain carrageenan. Some of these items include:

  • Almond Breeze almond milk & almond-coconut milk (Blue Diamond)
  • Cottage cheese from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Friendship brand, Horizon
  • Stonyfield Yogurt (caramel flavor)
  • So Delicious almond milk
  • Coconut Dream coconut milk
  • Silk pure coconut milk
  • So Delicious coconut milk
  • Non-dairy frozen desserts: Almond Dream, Rice Dream, So Delicious (not all flavors)
  • Rice Dream (unsweetened) rice milk (not the refrigerated one)
More conventional/natural products which contain carrageenan include:
  • Enjoy Life ChocoBoom™ Ricemilk and Ricemilk Crunch (chocolate bar)
  • Nestle Nesquik (figures, but I used to use this product a lot as a child)
  • Nestle Coffeemate coffee creamer (except Natural-Bliss)
  • Slim Fast (used to use this)
  • Land O’ Lakes (sour cream and cottage cheese)
  • Toffuti
  • Soy Dream frozen desserts
  • So Delicious milk and almond yogurt
  • Kozy Shack
  • Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
  • Coldstone Creamery Ice Cream
  • Balance Bars (protein bars)
So yeah, needless to say I am VERY sad about this list – a lot of these products I have bought before or was a fan of currently. Remember that this is only a small list of things I personally sorted through, a bigger list can be found here. It makes me sad but I’m going to have to evaluate the products I buy and study the labels even more carefully. I don’t want colon cancer or any gastrointestinal issues to arise after all.

Kammie wants to know:

  • Have you ever bought any of the products I mentioned above?

  • Were you aware of what carrageenan was?

Let me know in the comments below!

27 Comments

  1. Wow I had no idea. Like seriously carrageenan is a carcinogen? I can not believe that it is being used in food. i am starting to think the food industry will put anything in your food if it increases profits.

    I am disappointing to hear that cold stone ice cream uses it. I will have to investigate further, thanks for the heads up!

  2. oh my gosh this is crazy! I have been having some serious intestinal issues and I wonder if this is the cause! I use those milks every single day in my smoothies

  3. Wow. Thank you! Maybe I can relate some of my GI issues to the almond breeze I’ve had. Makes tons of sense now. Bummer. I was loving it.

  4. Great and thorough post! I’m crazy for additives and preservatives -> borderline scared of them in all capacity…the more we know:)

  5. I am so glad you posted about this! Carrageenan is the devil! I am actually planning on making my own almond milk from now on because of it.

  6. Interesting. I try to avoid additives and preservatives. I’ll have to watch more closely for this now. So sad it’s in So Delicious stuff. I love their ice cream.

  7. I remember reading about this a few months ago- I almost never buy store-bought almond milks, etc. anymore! So sad! Now I’m all about the homemade, which is way better anyway 🙂

  8. Interesting, that’s for sure. First time I hear of it. I have Almond Milk in my fridge which I think is expired.

  9. I actually emailed Silk about this. they sent me a response saying there are two different types of carogeenan. here is the quote “Food Grade Carrageenan (the one we use) has been used in food since the 1930’s. And since being introduced has been monitored and reviewed in both the U.S. and Europe, and consistently been found to be safe for use in food.

    Degraded Carrageenan (also known as Poligeenan) IS NOT allowed in food production, nor is it contained in the Food Grade version. In large doses, degraded carrageenan has been found to cause unfavorable health effects in animal studies. As stated earlier, that’s where it seems the confusion and misinformation on this topic is based.

    Rest assured that as a company we’re always monitoring for and reviewing emerging research and science around all of our ingredients, and will continue to do so to ensure that we’re using the safest, highest-quality ingredients we can in our products”

    • After reading your comment, I went to research a bit more about the distinction and found this write up by Cornucopia institute:

      Carrageenan processors tend to portray the difference between degraded and undegraded carrageenan as a simple, black-­‐and-­‐white distinction. They claim that food-­‐grade carrageenan sold to food processors falls entirely in the undegraded category.
      However, studies (including industry-­‐funded studies) show that food-­‐grade carrageenan is also linked to colon inflammation and colon cancer in animals. Studies have reported that high molecular weight carrageenan can degrade in the gastrointestinal tract to low molecular weight carrageenan.8, 9
      Moreover, when the industry tested its food-­‐grade carrageenan for the presence of degraded carrageenan, results showed that every sample had at least some degraded carrageenan, with some test results of food-­‐grade carrageenan showing as much as 25% degraded carrageenan.

      http://cornucopia.org/CornucopiaAnalysisofCarrageenanHealthImpacts042612.pdf

  10. WOw I use SO much of the stuff on the list. DIsturbing for sure. Seems like if it’s not one thing it’s another. THanks for the heads up.

  11. Very interesting! Thanks for bringing this to light. I’ve always been on the fence about carrageenan and I think your post reaffirms my worries!

  12. Thank you for this post! I’ve been meaning to look into what exactly carrageenan is…I only knew that it wasn’t necessary. I started noticing it about a year or so ago when I was shopping for a good, natural cottage cheese. I swear it’s in almost EVERY brand of cottage cheese out there…except for the Friendship brand that I buy (it’s also SUPER low in sodium–another win!). I’ve seen it when shopping for other dairy products too, but I’m ashamed to say I never even knew it was in my precious Almond Breeze! Nooooooo! 🙁

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  14. Thank you for your helpful information! I recently changed over to the Natural Bliss creamers b/c they didn’t contain carrageenan. But, to my surprise today, I just bought and opened a brand new bottle of the Chocolate flavor only to find that it contains carrageenan!! Grrrr! When i bought it in the store, i didnt bother reviewing the ingredients…I just assumed and trusted that it wouldn’t have it. So, beware…don’t buy the chocolate!

  15. I am in search of a product that doesn’t use Carrageenan and stumbled on your blog. Does such a list even exist? I didn’t see it anywhere. Thank you!

  16. One more thing, dairy free!

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