Watch Out For This Carcinogen In Your Organic Food

I really wish I wasn’t writing this post right now. The information I am about to share with you will likely make you pretty angry and it should.  Do you consume any of these brands in the picture below (Silk, Starbucks, So Delicious, Horizon, Zico, Blue Diamond, Pacific, Carnation and Tempt)? My guess is that you probably do.

A few days ago, the Cornucopia Institute released a Video by it’s co-founder and Senior Farm Analyst, Mark Kastel and a full PDF Report that shares some very startling practices between the USDA and the NOSA “National Organic Standards Board”- the agency that regulates organic food. This report explains the details behind several allegations of corporate corruption that has allowed several agribusinesses to use chemicals in organic products without sufficient regulatory oversight.

A Carcinogen Hiding In Organic Dairy & Dairy Substitutes

One of the findings has to do with a carcinogenic ingredient all these products have in common, a substance derived from red algae called carrageenan. Carrageenan can be found in most milk substitute products, infant formula, deli meats, cottage cheese and some flavored coconut waters regardless if the product is certified organic by the USDA. I know so many people who get soy lattes from Starbucks to avoid having to consume conventional milk products, so I thought it would be pertinent to include them here on the list below, since they and many other coffee shops use soy milk that contains carrageenan.

Organic Watch Dog Common Brands

I’ve had my doubts about carrageenan for a long time – it started last year when my cousin from Ohio sent me a Facebook message asking about whether or not it was ok to feed store bought almond milk that contained this additive to her toddler aged son. Since I didn’t have all the facts, I erred on the side of caution and suggested she make her own almond milk from scratch only.

Now, there are sound reasons and a plethora of studies that the Cornucopia Institute has summarized that has made all my hunches come true. Their report detailed out several specific studies that showed that food safe and approved “undegraded” carrageenan is containaminated with the non-approved degraded carrageenan. Furthermore, when you ingest the undegraded version, it actually starts to degrade in the gastrointestinal tract and in the liver and turn into a carcinogen, resulting in a serious inflammatory agent that also can cause intestinal abnormalities. Because of this reason and other studies conducted the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Research Council of the United States both have determined that carrageenan is a carcinogen – a substance that causes cancer.

How In The World Can A Carcinogen Be Allowed Into Organic Food?

This is where the Cornucopia Institute does a extraordinary job showing you the timeline of events, lack of regulation, and down right shadiness that all led up to carrageenan’s approval. They show you the series of situations where companies that profit from these ingredients were some of the only reviewers involved in the decision. It’s easy to understand how this can happen, now that organic food companies are being bought by major conventional food companies left and right. Below is a chart taken from the Cornucopia website that shows the relationship big food now has on several smaller organic companies. Please note – This was taken in 2009 and is even worse now, for instance Kraft has since bought Cadbury and so on.

Organic Companies

Every time I mention a particular ingredient and it’s harm, I come across opponents to my line of arguments, saying that I am being alarmist or using scare tactics. They love to point out that it’s “food grade” or is safe in “low doses.” Looking at the findings and report on carrageenan, you can see these arguments can be seriously flawed. It reminds me of the times where I discussed the ingredient proplyene glycol in Panera Bread’s salad dressings and TBHQ in Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches. Just like the NOSB has accomplished with the USDA, the FDA also has continuously approved countless chemicals to be added to our food in a low doses. Does anyone really know what the cumulative effect of these additives is over time? Our soil is already depleted of several vitamins and minerals and the nutrition content of our food is declining every single year. How can we afford to put these chemicals in our body? Should we let the FDA tell us what percentage is safe? Or should we use our common sense and decide as a collective group not to consume these additives and chemicals?

I don’t know about you but I feel personally duped by carrageenan. I assumed that once a product was certified organic like Pacific Almond Milk, that it was perfectly safe to drink. I’ve even recommended this product and some others that contained carrageenan here on this site. I’ve since cleaned up my ingredient lists on my recipes and made sure my pantry staples list does not contain any products with this additive in it. We are all learning here together and I hope you forgive me for ever assuming this substance was safe to consume, because it is clearly not.

Almond Milk

What You Can Do Instead

Milk substitutes are wildly popular and something many people consume almost everyday, so it’s important that if you were relying on one of these products above to start making your own milk or find another substitute. It’s so easy to make your own. Watch this video to see how I make it. I like to strain my milk through a very fine grain strainer. Check it out, just to see how easy it is! You won’t ever be tempted to buy processed almond milk in a carton again.

Even though Cornucopia estimates they are close to 300 chemical additives approved to be used in organics, there are still thousands approved for conventional products. The facts presented here should not discourage you to eat less organic food, but to encourage you to fight for its regulations and ultimate safeguard. I urge you to watch the Video by Mark Kastel and read the Full Cornucopia Report when you have time and to spread this information to as many people as possible – Please feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter and your own blogs.

In The Best of Health Always,

Food Babe

Update: Check out Cornucopia’s new shopping guide to find out which products do and do not contain carrageenan (Tree of Life, 365 Brand Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s (cold section) are a few).

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503 Responses to “Watch Out For This Carcinogen In Your Organic Food”

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  4. pie

    You should also include Panera’s Bread for using carrageenan in their milk, and their potato chips are also on a known cancer from the fda list.

    I was at Panera’s, and behind the casher was a warning for Panera’s food may cause cancer. I asked for the handout, and she said it was just the coffee, and potato chips. So I let it go, and did not get the handout sheet. – Pretty tricky on Panera’s manager part doing a “jack, and beanstock” move where I did not get the handout’s they had in their restaurant.

    I also noticed mcdonalds had a warring about cancer in foods as I was receiving my iced coffee. – Mcdonalds puts milk in their iced coffee’s. Next time, I will be more aware.

    Reply
  5. pie

    As a follow up, I went to Panera’s bread, and re-asked for the hand out. The manager told me she could not supply the hand out however, I could find whatever I wanted on the internet. So I asked her what foods had this cancer causing ingredients in their foods. The manager said: “It’s in the chips, coffee, and milk they use.”

    I was looking back at a couple getting coffee, and using the milk. I almost wanted to warn them to stop. But no, I was going to be cool, and not say anything while I was waiting for my hand out I never got.

    Reply
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  7. Monica

    I’ve drinking Califia almond milk thinking it was healthy only to see that it contains carrageenan. Very disappointing!!! Will make my own almond milk from now on. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Monica (to Monica)

      I just went to Califia facebook page and it says they have pledged to remove carrageenan by 2015. Good to know!

      Reply
    • Doro (to Monica)

      Almond milks are a petty replacement for milk. They only contain 1g of protein per cup versus 8g in milk, and also higher amounts of sodium and carbohydrates. You may as well be sucking on lollipops.

      Reply
  8. Probiotics Best

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  9. Rominecko

    Old news…

    Reply
  10. Mist

    The same ingredient as the stuff used in a petry dish to grow out bacteria.

    Reply
  11. Carol

    My pediatrician recently suggested PediaSure for my 9 yr old. Thanks to you, I have started to read all ingredients and I’m glad I did….. Guess what’s in it?
    Carrageenan amongst many other harmful ingredients! Totally disgusted!!

    Reply
  12. Heather

    I just checked the organic yogurt sticks “squeezers” from TRADER JOE’s, they contain carrageenan! I give these to my child daily, I thought I could trust Traders, especially with something as simple as yogurt. I’m going to write to them.

    Reply
  13. Maria

    I just wrote So Delicious an email, because I love their coconut milk and recently saw they had this ingredient… I would go back to buying their product in an instant if they took it out! It’s so yummy

    Reply
  14. Maggie Sels

    Thank you thank you thank you! Since about the age of 11 I have an allergy to Carrageenan. How do I know? Trial and error. It was a horrible way to grow up and took me 7 years to figure out the ingredient I was allergic to. I am also sensitive to guar gum and gum arabic. It is so nice that someone is now recognizing that this stuff should NOT be in our foods. Please see part of my research on this carcinogen below:

    Carrageenan is not allowed for use in EU foods but is approved by the FDA here in the USA*. Studies in animals have shown carrageenan to cause ulcerative colitis-like symptoms**. Through trial and error I have found carrageenan in: toothpastes, all ice cream, all cream based products, turkey and other meats, chocolate milk, soy, bread crumbs, drink mixers, and pretty much all desserts. It can also be found in non-food items such as shampoo, air fresheners, marbling, shoe polish, and gels*. Companies get away with adding it without listing it separately on food ingredients because it is included by listing just “Cream”. I know this for a fact because a representative from a local cheese/cream factory emailed me a couple years ago stating so. Why would they want to hide this ingredient from the public if it is not harmful?

    *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan

    **http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378427414013125

    Reply
  15. Colleen

    They have started adding carrageenan to toothpaste now too. I know you’re not supposed to eat it…but why in the world would they start adding that now?!? I’ve had to start making my own toothpaste since I can’t find a single brand that doesn’t contain sorbitol or carrageenan, both things I avoid, even in small quantities. Once you start learning about all these things the food industry really starts to make you mad.

    Reply
  16. melissa

    What about caraganeenan in toothpastes and such? Is this the same type or are there different types??

    Reply
  17. Food Babe (to Dr. Harris J. Bixler ScD)

    Where did you get this information?

    Reply
  18. SpawnOfSnape (to Dr. Harris J. Bixler ScD)

    I have to agree with you, regardless of where your affiliations might or might not be. From what I have researched myself, I have found it to be a safe ingredient, with no actual scientific evidence otherwise. Give me actual scientific studies showing me that it’s bad, and I’ll change my mind.

    As it is, every single food I could eat has some sort of internet sensationalist spiel about cancer or obesity, or other health issues. If I listened to all of them, I couldn’t eat anything.

    Reply
  19. tamara (to Dr. Harris J. Bixler ScD)

    so funny because i am a 20 year migraine sufferer and have done many elemination diets to find my triggers, until a year ago i had never been able to fine tune my diet to the point of no headaches. (by this point i had cut out gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, and most nuts, along with the common chocolates and alcohols) Then i discoverd that the ingredient carageenan was the only “unapproved” thing that i was consuming the day before a migraine attack! Almost one year now that i have been concious of this ingredient and my only attacks have come when i accidently consumed carageenan! and i have sucessfully reintroduced all my previous triggers (other than alcohol and gluten) with no problems, so…

    Reply
  20. Danielle (to Food Babe)

    He’s a doctor according to his title which could be why he’s is saying that it’s ok to eat carrageenan. If we take the poisons out of our food how would he get paid?

    Reply
  21. Rachel (to Food Babe)

    I got the same comment on my blog when I posted about carrageenan, so I did a little looking and found this posted on practically every blog that mentions carrageenan. I did discover that one of the people posting (Debbie Young) works for a company called Ingredient Solutions, Inc. which is a company that sells food additives, including carrageenan. I also this response from Charlotte at the Cornucopia Institute,
    “The defense of carrageenan above by Debbie is a verbatim response by Dr. Harris Bixler, who is a director of Marinalg International, the trade lobby group for the corporations that manufacture carrageenan. Scientists have used food-grade carrageenan in the diet of laboratory animals and found adverse effects on the gastrointestinal system. More recent studies, funded by the National Institutes of Health, have identified the biological mechanisms by which food-grade carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation, a precursor to more serious diseases. More information about carrageenan and its harmful effects on the gastrointestinal system is available on The Cornucopia Institute website.”
    Charlotte Vallaeys

    I personally try to avoid as many additives as I possibly can, regardless of what the FDA approves. The FDA approves countless chemicals, additives, etc, that are destroying our health and our world. NO thanks.

    Thanks so much for your blog! I absolutely love it!!!!

    Reply
  22. Anne (to Danielle)

    I did a search on this guy and he has been all over the blog world of people exposing carragenan posting this exact blurb word for word. Over on the “Oh She Glows” blog someone asked if he was the “Dr. Harris J. Bixler ScD” that is the treasurer of the International Seawood Association. I checked their website and sure enough he is listed there right under contacts. That makes a little more sense now doesn’t it!!! What a sad world where people with financial interest will promote anything regardless of how bad it is for human health!

    Reply
  23. zosia (to Anne)

    that doesn’t make what he wrote incorrect, though…

    it’s all about moderation…

    Reply
  24. Anne (to Anne)

    Moderation is what kills people Zosia. What if we all took that stance on cyanide. Straight poison is going to kill you, whether you take a little or a lot. Why do we always reason and say “everything in moderation”. Why can’t people just take a stand and avoid toxic chemicals and additives in our food?

    Reply
  25. Deborah (to Rachel)

    Awesome! Thank you for researching these people and the statements that come with them.
    Scary, isn’t it? Now why would a guy that works at such a company write such a “strong” response? What’s in it for him?
    Is this possibly his job description?

    Reply
  26. Caryn (to SpawnOfSnape)

    Yes, you could eat whole, real foods like we are intended to eat.

    Reply
  27. Brand (to debbie)

    Thank you…reading this blog about carrageenan and everyone’s responses, without them researching on their own. I have been studying all the polysaccharides for food use and most are amazing. Maybe someone will actually read yours and do their own research from all the a studies over the last 50 years.

    Reply
  28. Debbie (to Brand)

    Thank you Brand. Like any other topic under the sun, it’s much easier to get people to look at negative information than it is to get people to actually do some homework on the subject. That’s the world we live in. I feel for these people who are genuinely experience health issues and have some experience with it myself in that my significant other’s mother is extremely gluten intolerant as well as having trouble with dairy and other medical issues. The list of things she can eat without feeling ill is not a long one but would be much shorter if it weren’t for products like carrageenan, xanthan and other gums which are instrumental in processing foods when gluten needs to be removed. There are so many people out there with various food allergies, everything from nuts to think skinned fruits, it doesn’t mean we should ban nuts and fruit.

    Reply
  29. Sky (to Casey Furlong)

    So angry… Why so angry?

    Reply
  30. Sky (to Stuart little)

    So are mice.

    Reply

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