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?