The Rak Foundation on

Carageenan: Controversial Seaweed

Published on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 18:18

Carrageenan … it’s not just seaweed and it is controversial, especially for babies

So what exactly is Carrageenan and why is it controversial?  There are so many consumers out there who believe that Carrageenan is “just seaweed.”  It’s not. 

Carrageenans are a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from seaweed via a chemical solvent.   Carrageenan has thickening and gelatin like qualities and is also a food stabilizer.    In addition to its use as a food additive, it's a key ingredient in the de-icing solutions used on airplanes, as well as cosmetics, pesticides, and room fresheners. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? 

Carrageenan is linked to gastrointestinal disorders as well as certain cancers. It can also be a source of hidden MSG.  It’s important for all of us to remember that there are certain food ingredients that contain free glutamic acids that aren’t Monosodium Glutamate, but act just like MSG when consumed.   

Most concerning, however, has been the use of Carrageenan in infant formulas and baby and toddler food products.  A 2007 joint FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)/WHO (World Health Organization) committee stated that “based on information available, it is inadvisable to use carrageenan or processed eucheuma seaweed in infant formulas.”  While Carrageenan is “generally recognized as safe” in the US due to the very small amounts generally included in products, when it is included in formula, the infant tends to consume much more and is therefore at risk for negative health consequences, such as GI ulceration and intestinal inflammation. Carrageenan is banned for use in formula in the EU.  Sadly, in the U.S., Carrageenan is a fairly common ingredient in infant formulas and toddler nutrition beverages. 

You’ll find Carrageenan most often in dessert products, ice creams milks, cheeses, whipped cream and whipped toppings, jellies and jams, puddings, soups and sauces.  Don’t forget to look for the ingredient on the lists of almond and soy milk products as well.

Visit The Rak Foundation for Nutritional Awareness for more information on how we can change the way America eats!