Carrageenan in Our Food

336 comments

In my post, Replacing Dairy Milk, a few of you commented that you avoid several brands of non-dairy milk because they contain an ingredient called carrageenan. This was the first time I had heard anything about this ingredient, or at least the first time I took any notice. I assumed that it was a safe ingredient, especially because it is found in some organic products. But as we know, just because something is allowed in our food does not mean it’s necessarily good for us. It’s frustrating as a consumer to believe we are buying quality ingredients only to find out they could be harmful to our health.

Anyway, I knew I had to look into this further. And I don’t like what I’m reading. In fact, I’m pretty ticked off.

At first blush, carrageenan sounds seemingly harmless – it’s derived from red seaweed and is used as a thickener, stabilizer, and/or emulsifier in many dairy (sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, etc), dairy alternatives (non-dairy milk, non-dairy cheese, etc), and deli meat products. As it turns out, research links carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation, lesions, and even colon cancer in animals. Individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or other gastrointestinal disorders are cautioned to avoid this ingredient as it can make symptoms – and inflammation – even worse. As someone who has suffered from IBS for many years, I was shocked to find this information out. This was the first I had heard of it.

For a review of the research on carrageenan see this PDF document by Cornucopia.org. Please look into this ingredient and make your own informed opinion.

For a long and detailed list of carrageenan in many dairy and non-dairy food products (and safe products as well), please see this Cornucopia shopping guide – it’s extremely helpful. You might be surprised at many of the brands that contain this ingredient. I know I sure was.

I realize there is no conclusive evidence with regard to human consumption of this ingredient, but I’m not willing to take that risk when there are other options, especially because I have suffered from IBS on and off for half my life. I will no longer support President’s Choice Organic Almond Milk or Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze – two of several brands that contain carrageenan. Instead, I’m going to purchase Whole Foods 365 organic almond milk which is one of the carrageenan-free brands or I will make my own milk at home (more on this in my next post). I’m anxious to see if I notice a difference.

For the complete list of carrageenan-free products, be sure to check out the shopping guide linked above.

As I mentioned in my intro post, we have a lot to learn from each other and this is a perfect example. I’m thankful for all of you sharing your experiences and knowledge in the comments. I’m learning too. I hope that by writing about this today, more awareness is brought to this ingredient. With other thickeners/emulsifiers readily available (such as organic guar gum and organic locust bean gum) there is no excuse for food businesses to continue to put carrageenan into our food at the potential risk of our health.

homemade almond milk 0031 thumb   Carrageenan in Our Food

I was already planning a post on homemade milk, but now it seems even more timely and appropriate. Easy, homemade milk coming on up. I think you’ll really like the ingredients list in this one.

Have you heard anything about carrageenan before? Do you avoid it on labels or will you in the future?

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{ 336 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer January 7, 2013

Thank you so much for posting this! I am not a great lable reader and I just “take it for granted” that something is good for me! I so appreciate your hard work with your blog and your willingness to inform! I think I will write letters to the companies that use this carrageenan just to let them know they could do better!

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Erica { EricaDHouse.com } January 8, 2013

What a great idea to write letters to the company! I will do the same and I think some may be willing to modify their products to keep their health conscious customers happy.

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Lia @ Sojourning January 8, 2013

Yah, that is a great idea. The more people who verbalize, the more likely they are to make changes. If it is unnecessary, then why not err on the side of caution and wholesomeness.

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Patricia January 14, 2013

Silk’s Pure Almond Milk DOES NOT contain carrageenan. It’s my favorite almond milk…very creamy and frothy YUM :) If you’re like me and don’t have the time to make your own, it’s a wonderful option.

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Donovan March 17, 2013

The problem with Silk is that they are owned by Dean Food’s — pretty much one of the biggest dairy companies in the world. So buying in buying Silk you’re still supporting the dairy industry.

Which is extremely frustrating as Silk and Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze (which has carageenan) are pretty much the two brands available in my area. No Whole Foods around here unfortunately =(

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Audrey May 18, 2013

I see what you’re saying about them being owned by a dairy company, but by supporting their vegan products aren’t we telling them as consumers that those nondairy options are the products we would like to see on the shelves?

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cecilia July 17, 2013

I agree with you Audrey. If a greater portion of the population would make the transition over to non-dairy products that are totally healthy, the industry would follow-up with more and better options for us Vegans and informed consumers.
I have been struggling with diabetes, digestive issues and, just recently, lymphoma, for some time. I wish I had known the truth of carrageenan long ago, because I had been consuming many products that contain this ingredient. It was only by coincidence that I was talking to a Whole Foods worker regarding their Almond Milk, (which I had switched to about a year ago from Almond Breeze), that was not in stock because it was pulled back for reformulation, who told me about the carrageenan. I was in shock because I had put so much faith in the companies, who claimed their product was better than dairy milk, would use a potentially dangerous ingredient. I’ve known for years that dairy products were not all they claimed it was. In fact, it’s just the opposite. All people should be made aware of this and get the industry to own up to the truth.

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maggie January 23, 2014

does gellan gum, locust bean gum or allergens contain carageenan?
seems like read that it was hidden there?

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Christopher February 12, 2014

Silk is not owned by Dean Foods. They are owned by a company called WhiteWave, which also makes Horizon Organic Milk.

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Nicki April 2, 2014

I agree with Audrey.
I know that our diary industry has gone astray but I do support products that reflect what I want to eat. If people change what they allow in their food and what not, then maybe the industry will change too. At the same time we need to support human living conditions for the creatures that give us our daily food. That I do with letters and emails.

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Betty jean October 26, 2014

Btw checking for b12 in non dairy milks is another concideration. As almond brreze has none and silk has at least 50% of a daily requirement.
In moderation I personally don’t worry about carrageenan. But I do check nutritional additives (vitamins) which you don’t want to overdose on. And o of course you want to steer clear of gmo’s. Silk is a great non-gmo product , both their milk and frozen desserts. If ur store doesn’t carry, always ask management. It also won’t hurt to try contacting companies to order from, giving your situation.

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Emerald August 8, 2013

The Silk company is opposed to GMO labeling, though. They gave alot of money to support GMO labeling in CA.

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Emerald August 8, 2013

Sorry for the typo. They gave alot of money to OPPOSE GMO labeling in CA. What was I thinking.

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Yeretzade May 31, 2014

I happened to buy “Silk, pure coconut” milk last week and noticed that had this “carrageenan” thing in the ingredients label. Too bad, cause it has the “Non GMO project” logo :(

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amanda May 6, 2013

SILK almond SUCKS!!!! completely unnatural texture. like instant pudding before it fully sets.way too thick for my comfort. if there is a whole foods near you I highly recommend their 365 store brand almond milk. Delicious. and its exponentially closer to milks real consistency!!

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Mystella April 8, 2014

Double check the research there are two types of carrageenan, degraded and undegraded. Most of the studies used degraded carrageenan, undegraded carrageenan is the substance used in food products. These substances are different in how the body reacts to them. I am not promoting avoiding or using products with this substnce but am advocating being informed.

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Pam Czernel April 20, 2014

Unfortunately, you only have part of the picture. While it is well established that degraded carrageenan is harmful, there have also been concerns with undegraded carrageenan dating back to the 70′s. There are several studies (including industry-funded studies) showing undegraded carrageenan linked with intestinal inflammation and colon cancer in animals. (When I took my cat off a cat food with carrageenan, his IBD cleared up! A little anecdotal evidence for ya…lol)

Further, studies are reporting that “safe” undegraded carrageenan can degrade in the gastrointestinal tract to become undegraded carrageenan…yikes.

On top of that, when the industry tested degraded carrageenan for the presence of undegraded carrageenan, every sample had at least some undegraded carrageenen in it. Some samples had as much as 25% undegraded carrageenan.

Eat it at your own risk…but it’s out of my diet. ;-)

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Pam Czernel April 20, 2014

Ah, geez…I got my degraded and undegraded’s mixed up half way through! LOL…typical me.

So, I meant to say…that undegraded (food-”safe”) becomes degraded (not food-safe) during digestion. And that when tested, samples of undegraded carrageenan have up to 25% degraded (harmful) carrageenan in them.

Whew…that was tough. ;-)

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Hutch August 2, 2014

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401181/Is-Carrageenan-Safe.html
This link sites extensive research showing all forms of carrageenan as being harmful.

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Amanda @SpritualSweat January 7, 2013

I have never heard of this either! I drink coconut milk everyday. Thank you for sharing what you found. I am running to the fridge now to check ingredients :)

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Elizabeth January 7, 2013

That is a wonderful observation that you made- that we can learn so much from each other. I hadn’t ever heard of this ingredient either, and I have been living “clean” and vegan for long enough now that the surprises are few and far between. Thanks for the post, and thanks to everyone who commented and brought this into the light!

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Christine January 7, 2013

Ive never heard of it but I’m going downstairs to check my almond milk now! I can’t thank you enough for sharing this type of information in a way that is so easy to understand. Thank you and thank you to your readers!!!

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Tamara January 7, 2013

Just read this,checked my Almond milk in the fridge…it is “Silk True Almond” and it does not list Carrageenan as an ingredient and it is Non-GMO. We just purchased this brand this week, so glad we did…Just thought I would let everyone know!
Thank you for posting this Angela, you are changing how we think/eat/live on a daily basis :)

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Julie January 8, 2013

Unfortunately, Silk Soy Milk does have it as an ingredient even while labelling it organic. :(

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Cassandra January 10, 2013

The unfortunate thing about the organic bandwagon is that people assume that organic always means healthy. Carrageenan is a polysaccharide (same type of molecule as sugar) therefore if it was extracted without the use of chemicals, it is still organic.

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Janet August 19, 2013

Unfortunately it is extracted with chemical and that’s what makes it unsafe. I consumed a lot of it before I learned of the dangers it can cause n boy was I surprised n shocked not to mention upset since I was batteling caner at the time. So now I read the lable on everything. High Fructose Corn Syrup is anothser dangerous ingredient to avoid like the plague!!!

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Kristen January 8, 2013

The problem with Silk brand, if you’re an ethical vegan, is that it is owned by Dean foods, Americas largest dairy supplier. They also forked over a lot of money to oppose bill 37 regarding GMO labeling. It really sucks :(

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Mary January 8, 2013

You’re right. I was so upset when I found this out and don’t buy Silk brand anymore! So ironic their parent company gave money to ban Prop 37 considering the label on their products says “Say no to GMO!” How hypocritical! Here’s a great resource to find out what organic brands are owned by larger, unethical corporations.

http://www.cornucopia.org/who-owns-organic/

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Maria January 10, 2013

I am allergic to soy (as well as a number of other things) and my options seem VERY limited. I have recently been drinking the Almond Breeze brand (which contains carrageenan), and was going to switch back to Silk. I am a vegan for ethical reasons though, and don’t want to support a company like theirs. Do you have any suggestions/other options?

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Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} January 18, 2013

Make your own almond milk! Super easy and much cheaper, too. :-)

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Trisha Lee May 30, 2013

Some Hemp beverages have no carrageenan, but their unsweetened variety does have carrageenan. Perhaps with communication, we can get them to take out the carrageenan.

I hate that Silk and Horizon sold out to Dean Foods and that this Dean Foods company donated a lot of money to Monsanto to stop Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods in California.

Yesterday, I called Almond Breeze (almond and coconut) and ask if they have Genetically Engineered ingredients, and they said YES THEY DO HAVE GMO’S IN Almond Breeze.

Silk Almond has the Non-GMO verified label, so this is something I don’t understand, but aside from politically boycotting, it does not have carrageenan (which my naturopathic doctor verified carrageenan does cause inflammation and worse.

If necessary, I can give up cereal and just go ride my bike down and get organic vege juice daily, instead of a couple times a week, to mix with my Ultra Clear Medical food and Vitamin D liquid drops, if these companies don’t stop being idiots.

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Carolyn January 7, 2013

Thank you for this post on carrageenan. I recently had heard that it wasn’t good for us but I didn’t know why. So thank you for filling me in on the details.

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Averie @ Averie Cooks January 7, 2013

Your homemade milk in the glass looks creamy, beautiful, and just sooooo good!

And all these things to think about and be mindful of. I better go have some chocolate and ponder it so I can wash it down with that milk of yours :)

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maggie January 23, 2014

yes I am a milk lover but I have a Dairy Farm has their own cows I buy milk there all the time. they just boil it. they have a ice cream store.
Make their own Ice Cream and sell farm fresh milk.

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Suzanne January 7, 2013

Thanks for this post! As someone who has tried almost every almond milk out there, I was also concerned about carrageenan, which is why I stopped buying Blue Diamond.

I recently discovered Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk and fell in love. It was thick and creamy and delicious. But your post prompted you to look up the ingredients. I never looked at it, because I trusted that most of TJ’s products are natural. But I realize that ‘natural’ is a loose term, and you can never rely on that when buying products.

In my research, I discovered this online post: http://mymimamsa.com/2011/03/08/but-if-its-from-trader-joes-its-all-natural-right-2/

The ingredient list looks scary, with a whole bunch of scientific words that I don’t recognize.
But, I love this almond milk so much, so I’m a little torn. I also read a lot about xantham gum not being good for you. (I’m gluten sensitive, so I know it’s used as a binder).

What do you think about this ingredient list? Would you drink this almond milk? How do you feel about xantham gum? Thanks!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 9, 2013

Hey Suzanne, I haven’t looked into the other ingredients, but I would suggest doing your research if they are a concern. Best of luck!

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Jess January 7, 2013

I was pretty surprised to hear this about carageenan in food and it potentially causing intestinal distress. As someone with tummy issues, I will definitely take this into consideration. I buy Blue Diamond almond milk pretty regularly as it is easy to get coupons for it.

I know it’s not food related (although it is health and body related!), but carageenan isn’t all bad. For instance, it shows up as an ingredient in some personal lubricants because it has been shown in some studies to prevent the transmission of HPV. Sliquid makes a rather easily found carageenan lubricant called Sliquid Sea.

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Bill August 20, 2013

Carraggeenan is made from seaweed. All the seaweed is now radioactive, from the Fukushima disaster, and getting worse.

Do not eat anything out of the sea, forever.

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Stephanie Wilson January 7, 2013

Thank you for this timely, informative post! Carrageenan is also commonly called Irish moss or carrageenan moss. I have seen many raw dessert chefs/blogs using this species of red algae as a thickener/stabilizer without researching the health concerns beforehand. Thanks to posts like this, the general public will be informed and prompted to educate themselves concerning this ingredient. You are a gem! Thanks again!

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Sandy January 8, 2013

Carrageenan is not Irish moss. It is processed from it. I have done my own research and don’t see anything wrong with carrageenan.

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melissa January 10, 2013

I totally agree with you Sandy. I found this on Amazon under the reviews for a book entitled Artisanal Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner and thought it was very profound:
“Regarding carrageenan. I do believe that you can find anything on the internet that villifies almost anything. I think it is strange to blame small amounts of carrageenan when studies are at best inconclusive, and when meat, dairy, sugar, processed food, and excess fats do a lot more to damage one’s health. If you believe the studies of a single individual (yes, there has been one person spearheading these negative studies), then substitute agar for carrageenan in my recipes. or you can use powdered Irish Moss (but I repeat, and see below, that carrageenan is simply processed Irish Moss). But take care to avoid many foods except homemade, because almost everything from soy and almond milk, to non-dairy yogurts and so many other “organic” foods contain it.

All the carrageenans (kappa, iota, lambda) are from slightly different species of red algae. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, kappa carrageenan can be extracted from either Irish Moss (chondrus crispus) or another red algae.
it is processed in the following way:
“Carrageenan is extracted from this seaweed in two ways. In native extraction, the seaweed is made into an aqueous solution, and the residue is filtered, leaving nearly pure carrageenan. The alkaline-modified method is less expensive and easier. The seaweed is mixed in an alkali solution, leaving a mixture of carrageenan and cellulose that can be sold as semirefined carrageenan.”

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Teresa February 28, 2013

I have to agree with Jen’s statements regarding her mom. I am 49 yrs old and have been treated for rheumatoid arthritis since I was 17. Two years ago, I gave up milk and ice cream, and began drinking Silk almond milk. Magically my RA disappeared! No longer on any meds of any kind! Last year I had some ice cream made with whole milk….became very sick; headache and could not stay out of the bathroom! Also, another time I bought another brand of almond milk that contained carrageenan (unknowingly!) inflammation started right up!
So for me, carrageenan is definitely a problem!

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Sheleana January 8, 2013

Irish moss and Carrageenan are very different in how they are processed. Irish moss is a healthy food safe for most people without negative side effects, the research was done on carrageenan (super processed) in packaged food products, not on the actual whole food irish moss that you can buy and soak to use in recipes at home.

Here’s an interesting article written by Elaina Love that helps break down the differences between the two ingredients and why you may want to re-consider being so concerned about using a sea weed in its natural form: http://elainalove.com/2012/10/13/the-buzz-about-irish-moss/

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Jenn January 18, 2013

I can tell you with certainty that carageenan makes my Mom sick. For YEARS we could not figure it out. She could have cows milk, but not cream, some processed foods, not others. Heck, its even in wheat tortillas wraps. She also stopped buying certain toothpastes since discovering it was in them. Since we figured out what it was that was making her sick, she has been SO much better. Instead of feeling ill almost daily, she rarely feels sick. No doubt it was the carageenan!

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Jamie January 7, 2013

Wow I had no idea! Thank you so much for sharing–I will certainly be giving more thought to the future of my usual weekly almond breeze purchase. Thank you so much for sharing the facts with your readers, AND for publicly declaring your boycott of carrageenan-containing almond milk. Hopefully almond breeze, etc. will take notice and make changes!

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Carol January 7, 2013

Quite a subject, Angela. I recently learned of the carrageenan conundrum from Susan Powers at Rawmazing.com. She did a lot of research on carrageenan because she used Irish Moss in many of her raw recipes. Needless to say, she is no longer using it. I pitched the remaining half package I had in my fridge, into the garbage can. I used to use packaged non-dairy milks, (with unsweetened almond and almond-coconut being my faves) but once I began making my own nut and seed milks, there was no turning back to store-bought for me. :)

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Emma January 8, 2013

Carol, I read rawmazing’s post too but from what I’ve been led to believe there’s a difference in the effects on the body of carageenan and unprocessed irish moss:

“There have been health concerns with the food additive “carrageenan gum” which is derived from Irish moss. This additive is found in ice creams, syrups, sauces, and many commercially packaged, highly processed foods. It is not the same as consuming pure Irish moss. Yes, carrageenan gum does come from Irish moss. But carageenan is heated and concentrated Irish Moss that is then highly processed into chemical form. Carageenan has lost the nutritional value of Irish Moss and makes it a health hazard.”
Pure irish moss actually has a soothing effect on the mucous membranes of the digestive system rather than an irritant effect!

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Sharla January 7, 2013

Wow! I can’t wait to see your post on making nut milk. I’m starting to think growing/making my own everything is going to be the only way to go!

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Jessica January 7, 2013

Thanks for bringing our attention to this! I’m currently working on healing my gut by eliminating a variety of food sensitivities and will be careful about what almond milk I consume!

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Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World January 7, 2013

Thank you for posting on this; as I try to make better choices for my family and myself, I have run into many an ingredient, and this one had me snowed for a while. I had a colleague tell me about it, and I started reading into it; I was as worried as you clearly are. My father passed away from colon cancer, so I try to watch myself. Additionally, I read that it can have detrimental effects on kids, so I am increasingly careful about what I let my daughter eat. I have found West Soy brand soy milk to have a few items that are carageenan-free, and I buy them for when I need a non-dairy milk product, and I am careful about the dairy that I buy. I read EVERY label that I come into contact with, and I do my best to follow Michael Pollan’s advice as to the number of ingredients in items (5 or fewer) and the pronounce-ability of those ingredients. I have a degree in English, and I am quite good with sight reading, so if I can’t read it, you better believe it’s not going in my cart.

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Larissa Quinn January 7, 2013

I’ve just looked at the ingredients on the soy ilk I use and have googled all the numbers. Carrageenan, or Irish moss is also listed as vegetable gum 407. And it’s in my soy milk. Australian brand Vitasoy “soy milky” lite. Guess what I won’t be having anymore… Thank you for the heads up.
I’ve made my own almond milk before but found I’d get a sore tummy after drinking it. Any advise?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 8, 2013

Hey Larissa, Did you soak your almonds overnight and rinse before using? This makes them much easier to digest.

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Larissa Quinn January 8, 2013

Hi Angela, yes I did. Peeled them etc. maybe I need to water it way down for myself and wean on to it slowly?!
There may be something else at play, calcium. I may have an intolerance to it and almonds are high in it? Had a virus as a baby, and been allergic to casein ever since, only since being completely milk free have I noticed changes after eating high calcium foods…something for me to look into. Sorry to go into it here!!! Love your blog, it really helps down here where saying you are Veagn is as good and saying you are unaustralian!

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Sara April 28, 2013

I spent several hundred dollars to have my blood analyzed for food allergies and sensitivies. I reacted strongly to both almonds and walnuts – ie highly allergic. I used to consume both because they are so healthy. Now, I use only coconut milk and hemp milk as alternatives to milk. It is hard to find coconut milk, though, that does not contain carrageenan unless it is canned.

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Tammy January 8, 2013

Chef AJ showed a real quick way to make almond milk. 1 cup of water + 1 Tsp raw, unroasted almond butter ( larger amount 3 cups water + 1 Tbsp almond butter) Blend 15-20 seconds and enjoy. No straining! You can sweeten w date syrup or dates or maple syrup or whatever. I have also done it w roasted almond butter cuz that’s what I get at Costco but it still tastes good to me.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 9, 2013

I read about this method in Ani Phyo’s books and I tried 3 cups water to 1 tbsp almond butter (with sweetener) and I really didn’t like it at all. I was so hoping I would! I didn’t find it compared to homemade almond milk. It might be good in a pinch though if I run out and I need something for a recipe.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 9, 2013

oops I meant to say I tried 1/2 tbsp AB and 1 cup water and 1/2 tbsp maple syrup – as I figured that would have a similar calorie profile as 1 cup regular sweetened almond milk. It was really watery to me though.

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Amy Johnson January 7, 2013

I had heard about this via “Food Babe” – she did a review about real food at Starbucks – she was surprised this ingredient is in their Organic Soy milk (bye bye latte’s for me – sad face) – I haven’t found a great replacement for at home, making it seems so time consuming (work full time, 2 kids and hubby) so have been using water for alot of my cooking/ recipes – sometimes with success, sometimes not.

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Cosmo January 7, 2013

Carageenan totally kills my stomach. I used to use vitasoy milk like 6-7 years ago and then they added carageenan, almond breeze chocolate didn’t have carageenan though I wouldn’t be surprised if it does now. There used to be a lot more choices before Silk became so popular now they all want the same consistancy. I like the whole foods brand almond milk a lot. The unsweetened vanilla is like yummy not sugary marshmallows. I think that the Trader Joes new brand of Almond milk is safe. Also Silk Pure Almond doesn’t list carageenan. I really like pacific organic oat milk for cooking with but I usually use the much cheaper Trader Joe’s Organic Unsweetened Soymilk.

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Ivy January 8, 2013

What a shock! I never knew. Thanks for the info!

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Alyssa January 8, 2013

Vitasoy makes an Oat and Quinoa beverage that doesn’t have carageenan. Its not organic but its made from Non-GMO ingredients. I have been using it in my Vega smoothies lately and it tastes great!

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Mary January 8, 2013

Didn’t even notice that ingredient on the side of my milk carton. Usually if something is labeled vegan I dont even glance at the ingreidents list unless I’m comparing products. I’m surprised Trader Joe’s uses carrageenan in their products. Will have to try and find another almond milk brand or switch back to rice milk. Thanks so much for the info.

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Lauren January 8, 2013

I feel the same about stevia. People blindly use this product because of all its marketing saying it’s “natural”, but there are plenty of natural things in this world that are very bad for us – e.g. tobacco.

According to my research stevia has links to cancer and infertility, I can’t believe people would rather put it into their bodies over a little honey or raw sugar.

Thank you for such an informative post, your blog is fantastic.

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Niki January 8, 2013

That is terrible! Thanks to your readers (and you!) for pointing this out. I’ll be reading labels and adjusting my future purchases accordingly.

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Kacey January 8, 2013

This is an issue I’ve known about for awhile and I’m kind of on the fence about. I mean, it seems pretty obvious that carrageenan is likely pretty darn bad. That said, the only brands of soy milk I have available to me, Sunrich and Silk, both have it, and I’m not about to stop buying soy milk. I guess my thoughts on it right now are that I personally haven’t had a bad reaction to it (yet), and if it causes cancer, well, it seems like basically everything causes cancer these days. That said, I’d be thrilled if they stopped using it! But it’s probably not what I’m going to use my purchasing power to fight for right now. (Although if my local stores started carrying a carrageenan-free soy milk and I didn’t hate it, I’d probably switch to that.)

Sorry for the super long comment! I guess it took a while for me to sort out my thoughts haha.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 8, 2013

Thanks for sharing Kacey, I know what you’re saying. It’s something everyone will have to decide for themselves ultimately and whether you feel like something could be off. Since I’ve had so many digestive issues over the years, I’m erring on the side of caution with this one and anxious to see if I notice any changes by removing it. And yes, the less strange ingredients the better in my opinion.

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jo @ including cake January 8, 2013

Really interesting post, I love how you’ve created a real community feel with everyone pitching in with their thoughts and findings. This is especially interesting to me at the moment as I am currently studying the T. Colin Campbell Plant Based Nutrition course which is questioning so many of my previously held ideas on plant based health.

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Melissa January 8, 2013

Great post. A while ago I started reading the labels on soy and almond milk, and also read the Cornucopia reports. So – I am committed to only making my own almond and soy milk now. It’s easy, it tastes better, and it is way cheaper. Even using Italian unpasteurized organic (whew!) almonds!

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Joanna January 8, 2013

Hello,
I am slightly concerned that a bit of internet research has led so many people to dismiss carregeenan. The evidence behind the safety of carregeenan is huge, and it is used very widely as a thickener in lots of foods and medications. As a medical researcher, I assure you, you would struggle to use any clinical gels, lotions, and syrups that didn’t have carregeenan in some form as a binder. In fact, it was recently being tested as a potential vaginal product to reduce the transmission of HIV (although other gels are proving more effective). Of course some people will have bad reactions to carregeenan, and some people will be allergic to it (like with anything), and there are probably some better formulations of carregeenan and some that are worse and have dangerous additives (again, like with any substance that originates with a natural ingredient and then is formulated with different components) BUT I don’t think this warrants outright panic over it.

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Ariel January 8, 2013

Thank you, I was thinking this myself.

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Tanya @ playful and hungry January 8, 2013

It’s the dose that makes the poison!
Thanks for your comment, that was exactly what I was thinking.
Think critical and don’t get obsessed about every single ingredient!

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Kate January 8, 2013

I agree. I’m a med student with my nose buried in books about illness pathology 24/7, so I’m always skeptical when someone says this-or-that can cause this-or-that. Correlation does not equal causation, everyone’s body is different, and the scientific research behind a claim has to be air-tight for me to believe it. I’m currently browsing the internet for opinions on carrageenan and I’m not the least bit impressed or swayed.

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Becca January 10, 2013

Agreed! Everything can become “evil” with a little Internet surfing.

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Kate January 13, 2013

I’m a few days late but have to chime in to agree with this thread. I’m a medical researcher as well, and this strikes me as unsubstantiated hype. I’ve really only briefly looked into carrageenan, but so far I don’t see any solid evidence that consuming carrageenan is harmful. Sure, researchers can induce inflammation by injecting carrageenan into rats– but it’s a HUGE leap to say that a carrageenan when eaten will cause inflammation in humans. Injection of high dose of a chemical into a rat body is so so so different than a human eating a small bit of a chemical.

Sure, if you have inflammatory conditions like celiac/IBS, it’s not going to kill you to try to cut a potentially inflammatory ingredient from your diet. There’s (probably) no proof that dietary carrageenan will or will not effect the cells lining your stomach.

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Abs June 26, 2013

For those of us with digestive issues and autoimmune disorders that we’ve been dealing with for 20+ years, YES, it does mean a small amount of panic. We aren’t just on some trend bandwagon, we don’t drink milk and have limited options. We are very careful to only buy products without carageenan or any extra ingredients that may cause inflammation or send us to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting and ruin our entire day by causing bloody constipation or diarrhea. Its like dodging bullets all day long to check labels and ask what is in every single thing we want to eat. If I want an apple, I don’t need it coated in sugar, oil, or wax. I want to eat a damn apple. We don’t need all these extra ingredients so corporations can make a profit. Their extra ingredients and hidden toxins are why most of us have become ill in the first place! Until you have a health issue, don’t claim that others are blowing things out of proportion. There is ONE brand out there without carageenan, in fact, I just went to Whole Foods tonite and my local store was out of ALL of the 365 Almond Milk and said they weren’t getting more in til August (its still June??!). So, I just spent $24.00 on raw almonds so I can make enough milk for the week. I dare you to start spending $24.00 for a container of $2.49 almond milk. You have no idea how some of us have to live.

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Willis November 23, 2013

I suppose a lot of what I eat creates a problem for a few. Then those people shouldn’t eat it. But so many of the “natural living” sites promote over-reaction. The amount of carregeenan I consume in a week is very small, pretty much like everyone else. So if it can be determined by good science that the stuff adversely affects you, don’t eat it or use it. Otherwise let’s not be promoting some level of hysteria out there.

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Michelle January 8, 2013

Oh no :( Vegan cheeses also contain that ingredient :(

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Livvie January 8, 2013

I agree with Joanna.

I think it’ is more that some people have issues with it, and like a lot of stuff it gets blown out of “well it is BAD!” just like a lot of people will say “Soy is bad for you because X-Y-Z” (which isn’t the case unless you are allergic, or eating funky stuff”or “Agave Nectar is bad for you”(which I personally don’t think is true unlesss you are eating it by the gallon-full).

People have been saying the same things about Brown Rice Syrup (being bad/deadly,etc), and people were like “Stop eating brown rice! don’t eat brown rice syrup,or brown rice flour!,etc”. I honestly feel unless you are super duper sensitive, than it shouldn’t be a problem right? (I mean a general “you” not just Angela “

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 8, 2013

I’m really glad you brought this up Ange. I’ve known about carrageenan for a while and figured that because it was derived from a seaweed, it must be pretty harmless (as you did). I didn’t know about the links to various diseases though. It’s amazing how many seemingly ‘whole food’ products contain extra ingredients like thickeners and stabilizers, and I think it just goes to show that home made and completely unprocessed is best. Not always practical from a time perspective, but when it’s your health we’re talking about, I think that’s a pretty important thing to spend time on!

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Emily (Edible Psychology) January 8, 2013

Wow – I had never heard of this either. How annoying that it doesn’t get more press. Thanks for helping to raise awareness.

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Danica January 8, 2013

Wow…I use presidents choice almond milk as well. Thank you for finding an alternative that does not have this ingredient in it. I suffer from IBS as well and drink this every morning in my nutritional drink.

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Ashleyy January 8, 2013

:(
As a person just recently switching to vegetarian and hoping to incorporate vegan things as well…the considerations are endless and overwhelming!

I have never used/drank much milk anyway, but I have been buying almond breeze lately. I will check my superstore for other options and be careful of other stuff I buy that might have it…just one more thing to remember as I try to be more diligent with the label-checking!

Best to be informed, though! Thanks Angela, I LOVE your blog!

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Johanna January 8, 2013

A customer at Trader Joe’s where I’ve been working for 9 years told me about carrageenan years ago, so, like you, I did the research. What was most interesting was that now I had an answer if someone once again told me that they couldn’t figure out why they were still having digestion issues drinking a milk alternative. Nothing is suppose to be consumed in excess, and I really don’t think a little carrageenan is going to hurt me, although I would like to still avoid it now if I can. There was a back and forth for a while on Amazon.com about the Artesian Vegan Cheese book’s recipes often calling for carrageenan. I still bought the book, and will try to substitute carrageenan with agar powder like we all figured we would do. We could all move on to the subject of agave being all that it claims, particularly now that it’s being used about as much as saccharine was back in the day in “diet” foods.

buenas suerte!

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Lesley January 8, 2013

Thank you for writing about this! I had no idea! I’m vegan and I have IBS. I’m definitely going to start checking my labels more closely.

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Danica @ It's Progression January 8, 2013

I’ve never heard of this before so I’m really glad you posted about it! I sometimes buy Almond Breeze milk but definitely won’t be anymore…I have a hard time finding organic almond milk here, do you know if Trader Joe’s unsweetened almond milk is okay?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 8, 2013

I think I remember it saying TJ’s was fine, but double check the shopping list I linked to just to be sure.

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Danica @ It's Progression January 9, 2013

perfect, thank you!

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Kate January 8, 2013

I believe the refrigerated version is fine.

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Dr. Harris J. Bixler ScD January 8, 2013

SO MUCH FOR THE MYTHS CONSIDER THE FACTS ON CARRAGEENAN FOR A CHANGE

Q. What is Carrageenan??
A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
Q. Why the controversy?
A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.
Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.
Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
Summary
Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
Closing Remarks
The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
Additional information available:
On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies. If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

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Rachel January 8, 2013

Is this the same Harris J. (‘Pete’) Bixler (Treasurer) that works for the International Seaweed Association? … Suspect

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Grass Fed Mama January 8, 2013

A government source? LOL

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Lynn January 11, 2013

If the FDA dismissed Dr. Tobacman’s petition, then I KNOW the good Doctor was right! I worked in a health food store for a number of years and have done much research – as much as possible anyway on this topic. It is true she (Dr. Tobacman) petitioned the FDA and was denied. I cannot base this post on trust that the FDA is watching out for all Americans. The FDA is a farce – therefore, this girl has eliminated carageenan completely out her diet.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 8, 2013

Hi Dr. Harris J. Bixler, I just saw that you are trying to repost this entire comment under a different name (“Debbie” but with exact same IP address) at the top of this comments section – why do you feel the need to post your comment twice? Could it be because you work for the seaweed association? http://www.isaseaweed.org/council.php I’ve noticed that you have posted this exact comment on several blogs talking about carrageenan. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (as are you) I just ask that you don’t spam my comments section. Thank you, Angela

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debbie April 8, 2013

My apologies for the duplication. Dr. Bixler is the author of the Q&A. I did not realize his paper had already been posted here. I did not intent for it to be spam. You are correct, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, I’m just trying to get the facts on carrageenan out to the public. There is so much on the web regurgitating misinformation about carrageenan, I have no doubt that there are people with legitimate allergies to carrageenan just as there are people with allergies to peanuts, latex, and countless other things, my point is that carrageenan that is used in food products is not carcinogenic, if I believed it was I would avoid it myself.
Again, apologies for the duplication and thank you for the opportunity to post my opinion.

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DJ June 3, 2013

Well I was going to ignore this post on the evils of carrageenan, but now that Debbie aka (Dr. Harris J. Bixler ScD) has clearly informed me of carrageenan’s inability to withstand high temperatures; I am concerned. During the winters months i was warming my “milk” up on the stove. If carrageenan can’t withstand boiling point temperatures & strong acid for more then six hours before there molecules begin to pull together and tighten, to produce this new chemical poligeenan; then how can the FDA know for certain someone won’t try to produce a new recipe in this same way? Maybe not as strong of an acid or as long to boil it for six hours. Still, I think it’s a weak base to stand on with the possibilities that can arise. Even if you need a strong acid and to boil the carrageenan for six hours, can’t the molecules still tighten slightly with a weaker acid and a lower boiling point? That in turn would still cause the carrageenan to become a slow “killer’, and or still make it a carcinogen?
*”Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans”.
I think for now I will not be heating my carrageenan type “milks”, and be on the look out for a “milk” type product that doesn’t contain a potential threat to my body.

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Melissa March 6, 2014

Debbie works for Ingredient Solutions Inc., the world’s largest independent carrageenan supplier, FYI. She’s admitted it when she’s called out on it in other blogs. In one, she wrote, “Yes, I am associated with Ingredients Solutions, Inc., and I am proud to be a part of the ISI family. Being part of ISI I am in a unique position to see first hand that carrageenan is a safe ingredient that actually provides manufacturers with options to reduce the sodium and fat content in their products which in turn makes them healthier to consumers. It is also used in many vegan applications as well as providing kosher options. I know there are a lot of studies that put carrageenan in a bad light but what most people don’t understand is that those studies are not performed in a way that would replicate carrageenan in the human diet. So yes, I work for the World’s Largest Independent Supplier of Carrageenan and I eat foods every day that contain carrageenan.”

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Annaliese February 21, 2014

Wow! I just wanted to say that I was browsing your recipes, and fumbled upon this topic, and that reply from “Dr Bixler”…As a researching food scientist and teaching assistant in confectionary sciences at an accredited university in the US, and having multiple career experiences relating to Quality and Regulatory Operations and food manufacturing under my belt, I have learned one thing about food additives: they are typically used to make the lives of the manufacturing company easier, usually involve making the food “pretty” (like not separating), and come from cheap sources. It is truly up to the consumer to be aware and savvy-so good for you for being attentive to that ingredient deck; it is powerful, and you must never stop reading it! The horrible thing, though, is that some regulations actually permit the use of “processing aids”, like silicone (yes, the fake-boob material), and not label the, in the ingredient deck.

Carageenan comes in several forms (for example, kappa carageenan); it is classified as a food “hydrocolloid”. This category of molecules is huge-and they are widely used (for example, xanthan gum, guar gum, carboxyl methyl cellulose), and come from a myriad of sources-all of which are not equal.

Carageenan has sulfur-containing reactive or functional groups. This sulfur content is what triggers inflammatory factions in many people (myself included). The same could be said for the cruciferous and brassica veggies we love (broccoli anyone?), but the difference is the level of refinement (natural form vs. un-natural form)

Carageenan is used in chocolate milks and other products that benefit from suspending particulates while on the shelf. However, carageenan exhibits a property known as “shear thinning”. What happens is when you suddenly pour the suspension, the viscosity decreases, easing the pour. Once in the vessel, the liquid re-gains the normal viscosity, which suspends the particles (like cocoa solids!). Indeed, I was personally ashamed and alarmed when a local dairy (I am from Wisconsin, so it means a lot to me, even if I don’t drink milk!!) started to use carageenan in their chocolate milk. What has this world come to?

If you’d like to know more, I have countless UNBIASED resources. Keep up the good work, and keep being an educated consumer-our world needs more of us!!

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Melanie January 8, 2013

It’s interesting that use isn’t even brand specific. When you look at the chart, one brand with multiple products – some use it, some don’t.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 9, 2013

I noticed this too…I wonder why they do this? If one way works, you’d think they’d use it in all of them. Or perhaps, some of the brands are making the change gradually. It might be worth asking!

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Heidi Cullinan January 8, 2013

I’m sick to my stomach–pardon the pun–reading this. My flax milk, I see, is full of it, and it makes me wonder if this is why my lip keeps swelling and I still have occasional intestinal issues. Time to switch to soy, extra estrogen be damned.

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Penni January 8, 2013

Hi Angela,
Although I share the wonderfulness & creativity of your posts daily with my readers at both Raw Food Rehab & Upgrade Your Plate, I’ve not been a good blogger friend in that I never leave you comments. Today seems like the perfect time to let you know that I deeply appreciate all that you do and posts like this are really important to share. I am a life-long IBS sufferer, and have never looked into carrageenan, other than to know it was a seaweed – I mean how bad could that be, right? Well, thanks for your research and now I know what to look for and what not to buy for me and my family.

Keep up the amazing work….
Love & respect,
Penni Shelton

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 8, 2013

Thank you Penni, I appreciate it! I hope you find relief for your symptoms too

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Nettie January 8, 2013

Hi Angela,

I love your blog. I’ve hope you don’t mind that I am a former vegan/veg but I still adore your blog. I found out approx 6 months ago about carrageenan. Please don’t cringe when I tell you this, I also found out that my diet/lifestyle was contributing to my health problems. I had bloodwork that showed I have intestinal permeability, so not only was that additive contributing to my inflammation and pain, but grains and legumes as well. I still am veg at heart, but I know from trial and error that I was never sicker. I am reading you posts on becoming vegan with interest as well, because I don’t know where I went wrong. Has anyone else had this experience? Can it be that vegan does not work for everyone? Trust me, I am not in the Paleo bacon camp, but for the moment I had to add lean animal protein with tons of veggies/fruit, limited nuts and seeds as this also causes inflammation. I am finally pain free and not to be TMI, use the bathroom normally. P.S. Awesome almond milk demo on youtube for milk made with ice, water, and soaked dates and nuts. Best I found. Thank you.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 9, 2013

I personally don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to food/diet when it comes to anyone. We each have to figure it out for ourselves. I’m sorry that you had problems with grains and legumes, but at least now you are aware of it and can make appropriate changes to feel better.

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Andi January 10, 2013

Nettie, how did you find out about your intestinal permeability? I think I may have that issue as well, but when I asked, my doctor said there’s no test for it.
I’m glad you found out what food makes you feel best.

And Angela, thanks for bringing up the subject of carrageenan. I’d heard of it, and always felt slightly discomfited, but just thought it was a moss or seaweed. It seems Sharla may be right – growing/making everything yourself seems the only way to guarantee a safe food product!

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Heather Dyck-Niivila January 8, 2013

I was just recently diagnosed with IBS after my c- section. It sucks. I’m not 100% positive as to that being what I have, but I’ve been vegan for ….nearly 13 yrs, and am trying to watch ingredients. I had heard that carageenan may not be good, but didn’t realize it directly related to gut problems. I am going to buy a different milk as well, and see if it helps. Thank you so much. Nice to know I’m not alone.

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