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 “undergraded” carrageenan is containaminated with the non-approved degraded carrageenan. Furthermore, when you ingest the undergraded 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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361 Responses to “Watch Out For This Carcinogen In Your Organic Food”

  1. Donna Cipriano

    FoodBabe….I am so confused that my head is spinning! Between organic food and non-GMO food, we now have to be careful that carrageenan is not in the ingredient list!!!! There is just so many tosses and turns a person doesn’t know what to eat. In frustration, I just throw up my hands and eat!!!!!

    I spend so much time in a grocery store between many stores trying to get what is good for you. Everyone just laughs at me. Of course, we have to look to see where our budget is on top of everything.

    The other day, I went to two stores, bought many things at both and, at the end of the day, spent over $300.00. I would like to say that was for the month but of course it is not. Our total food budget is $400.00

    Let’s not forget what kinds of food are we eating: plant based, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc.? Is there an easier way to do this?


    • DebDAG (to Donna Cipriano)

      Since my family has moved to purchasing real food not manufactured foods and convenience items. Our food budget is down to $400 – $450/month. We get mostly organic (always for the fruits & veggies that are most prone to having pesticide problems), non-GMO, bulk (but that isn’t always the least expensive alternative – I found lentils & dry beans are cheaper in packages than bulk in my area). Yes we go to several stores also (BJ’s Club, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc.).

      It can be done, but you do have to change how you eat. No packaged ‘treats’. As my daughter said the other day, we eat some junk, but at least we made it from scratch and know what is in it. We are healthier and we are spending about 1/4-1/3 what we used to on food.

      Best, Deborah

      PS: These changes helped us. Maybe they can help you or someone else.
      -1st – using and sticking to a list is very helpful when working to keep costs down. -2nd – Next helpful is purchasing in large quantities when on sale or at wholesale clubs so I am not purchasing a small amount of everything every week. You do have to figure out storage, but once you put a system in place you are good.
      -3rd – most helpful thing was to find some other ways to make things go further… like getting 3 meals out of each whole chicken I purchase. (Might need to research some new recipes that your family will like – remember they are just guidelines you can substitute ingredients and innovate.)

      • Adreana (to DebDAG)

        I too get so frustrated that I throw my hands up and eat. Ive been on this healthy journey for over a year now, and I have to say this was some great advice!! Thanks for the support, and telling us how you personally stay on track. Much love

  2. sara

    I freed my 1year old tempt milk because he has a dairy allergy. He needs the fat and protein of either help milk or soy milk. Nut and rice Mills don’t have enough for brain development between she 1 and 2. He definitely has diarrhea issues. ….I guess it is from this. But what can I use as an alternative?

    • Tiffany (to sara)

      If you look at the fat content on say almond milk and the fat content of 2% or 3% milk, it’s very very close. Only a few percentages off. After 2, unless you’re breastfeeding, babies don’t NEED milk anymore – but they do need the fat. Adding lots of good oils, fatty foods like avocado and a milk substitute are more than enough. And soy is terribly bad for you.

      • adreana (to Tiffany)

        Tiffany what you said is very educated and helpful to those who wanna take your advice!! Thanka for spreading the word.. much love

  3. Jacqueline

    Hey, I just wanted to share an update. I just got off the phone w a rep from “So Delicious” and she said they are re modifying all their ingredients in their products. First to be realeased will be half gallons of coconut milk without carrageenan in them, to be on the east coast first, and they are following suit w all other products.

  4. sam

    Just because it sounds like something that causes cancer doesn’t mean it is. Think for youself!

    • Adreana (to sam)

      Why risk it?

    • Jen (to sam)

      Where on earth did you get the idea that the conclusion of carcinogenicity came from it “sounding like a carcinogen”? Smh. Read the article again, please, without inserting your own interpretation this time.

  5. barbara

    I buy sometimes Silk Almond Milk, not sweet, just the original version and it does not list Carrageenan on it’s Ingredients List. It has the Labels ‘USDA Organic and NON GMO
    Most other so called Organic Brands have Carrageenan in it.
    Sure it is always safer to make your own Nut Milk, but with Prices of Raw Organic Almonds ,currenly I would pay here in IA $18 for a Pound, it is cheaper to buy the milk already ready to drink

  6. natalie

    What about Earth’s Best Baby formual??? i don’t see it listed, but now i am worried it isn’t safe (even though it’s organic and i’m spending a premium)!!

  7. Sharon

    For anyone looking for soy milk without carrageenan… check out

  8. Jess

    No, we’re not all paranoid, some of us have actually been experiencing very real, unfortunate problems due to all the crap that’s allowed in our foods and people are getting sick of it. Other countries in Europe and Asia have actually banned carrageenan from their food supply so why is it still allowed here? Because not enough people in this country don’t bother or care to find out what’s in their food and it’s gotten out of control and they obviously don’t seem to mind eating toxic junk. By the way, water has fluoride (dumbs down the population) and not the good kind.

  9. Diana

    Just found it in a Trader Joes label ice cream. Admittedly not organic, but still!!!
    Come on Trader Joes, you say your looking out for your customers, what’s up with this? Get it out!!!

  10. Jess

    Oh I really feel so sad for people who have an allergy to soy because that stuff is in almost everything out there! Very difficult to avoid.

  11. Jess

    Sorry, my response was for someone who mentioned they have an allergy to soy but my reply ended up in the wrong place.

  12. JoJo

    Califia farms contain it too!!! Feel so duped

  13. Pam

    Just found Carrageenan listed in Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer-made with Organic Soy beans. Very disappointing!! Who is responsible for protecting the people of this country? Maybe talking among ourselves isn’t going to do it? What is?

  14. claudia barlow

    The key is to use a blender and then strain it through cheesecloth. That is what I am going to make a habit of doing and not just once. Now to find decent produce that isn’t grown with additives. This is a small town and my husband and I have no car, so we are stuck walking to the local supermarket, which is one with bad standards. One really has to be careful.

  15. Leah

    I like banana milk–just water and a banana in the blender and yu can control how thin you want to make it. Nutritious and very yummy. Great for babies too!

  16. Karla

    Carrageenan is for thickening. Image what does inside of your arteries? Something to think about. WestSoy is a great soy milk only organic soybeans and water and it tastes great…….

  17. Erin

    What about toothpaste? I just realized many toothpaste has carrageenan in it. We don’t “eat” toothpaste but it seems wise to avoid it altogether. There’s another post for you toothpaste brands that have it and ones that don’t.

  18. Lily

    Nice info on the article.

    Too bad these companies have lobbyist that will keep these in production.

  19. Brandon

    Too bad, I thought Blue Diamond would be ok to drink, didn’t know about Carrageenan.

  20. Jodi

    I cannot find any information on Almond Sense almond milk. Carageenan is not listed in the ingredients. Can you tell me if this is indeed true and if it is non GMO?

  21. Maureen
    This is a list from So Delicious and they are working tirelessly to remove carrageenan from all of their products. You should talk about that on your blog too.

  22. Jennifer Michelle Ora Kreisler

    My Horizon milk just saysorganic grade A milk and vitamin D3. It does not like Carageenan. Didn’ you say Horizon products? What by them has carageenan?

  23. Jen S

    I’m horrified! My son has been drinking the So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk for more than 2 years! He’s 4!!!! I am sick that I’ve been giving this to him, he needed a milk substitute and we opted for coconut because of the healthy fats it contains, and he’s a little guy. Does anyone know of a safe coconut milk alternative? I’m all for making nut milks but I think making coconut milk in the quantities he drinks it would be impossible. He drinks a litre every 3 days or so :/

  24. Jill

    Thanks so much for talking about Carageenan. I suffered with IBS for years until I eliminated Carrageenan from my diet. My sister-in-law has MS and has had digestive troubles she thought was related to that. She eliminated Carageenan from her diet and her digestive troubles have gone away. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that most people who believe they are lactose intolerant are really reacting to carrageenan in many dairy products.

    It’s hiding everywhere – salad dressings, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, coffee creamers, sour cream, whipping cream, flavored milks of all kinds, Costco’s cheese tortellini… Although I try to read labels, some things that I would never suspect have it. If I have a flare up, I check the labels of what I recently ate and sure enough, there it is. How can we rid our food of this harmful and unnecessary ingredient?

  25. Craig

    365 Unsweetened Almond Milk sold at Whole Foods contains:

    Organic almond milk (filtered water, organic almonds), tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, xanthan gum, potassium citrate, sunflower lecithin, vitamin a palmitate, ergocalciferol (vitamin d2), dl-alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin e).

    I have also found that this brand is slightly less expensive than other popular brands out there.

  26. bcgirl

    Dont forget your pets too.
    I’m trying to switch my cat’s wet food to a healthier option and Carrageenan is in many brands of cat food. I emailed his current favorite meow mix (part of Dole) to see if they had other options without Carrageenan or if they had plans to remove it from their products and the below is the response I received.

    Thanks for visiting our website and for your email.

    Carrageenan is an extract from a species of red seaweed. Because of its texture, carrageenan is often used as a thickener or emulsifier in foods such as ice-cream, yogurt, and baked goods. A small amount of carrageenan is commonly added to wet pet food as an emulsifier. Carrageenan has been used in food processing for many years, and over 150 studies on the health effects of consuming un-degraded carrageenan concluded it is safe to eat.

    We appreciate the opportunity to respond and your comments will be shared with our management.

    Donna, DLM Foods Canada Consumer Affairs

  27. lisa

    I saw that Desert Essence toothpaste contains Carrageenan (Plant Derived). Is this any different than the Carrageenan talked about here? Sorry if this has already been discussed. I am new to . Thank you.

  28. lisa

    That’s . Sorry.


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