Organic Carrageenan? Some thoughts on food additives

A few weeks ago I did a morning show here in Portland talking about food additives and the dangers of many substances we accept and consider as “safe” even though we may not have a clue what they are.  One of these commonly used additives is a seaweed derivative that is added to non-dairy milks (almond, hemp, coconut), and ice cream to emulsify or gel the product prohibiting separation.  This substance is called carrageenan.  Because of time restraints I was only able to touch on the fact that this additive is considered a carcinogen…which got quite a scoffing from the medical professional waiting for his turn in the green room!

Carrageenan comes from seaweed – and in it’s natural state it is not harmful.  However, the extraction process to make it a commercial preparation turns it into an entirely new substance called “polygeenan.”  This altered substance is no longer a benign food additive – it’s actually very harmful especially to the intestines.  Go here to read an interesting article on the dangers of carrageenan in your diet.

Food labeling has always been a game of deciphering hidden messages.   This additive is a perfect example of why we need to create awareness around what is in our food.  We can scoff and invalidate – even ignore truth – but with the rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes going on in this country it might be worth taking a second look at that label and understanding what’s in your food.

A common argument to this by food scientists and manufacturers is that you’d have to eat a certain amount before it can be dangerous.  That may be so – but if I offered you two glasses of water, one having an “allowable amount” of a known toxin in it and the other glass with none – which would you choose?