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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 in 2011 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. 

Check out my books The Food Babe Way and Food Babe Kitchen for nut milk recipes and strategies you can use to break free from the toxins in your food! My recipe for cashew milk takes 1 min and super easy to make!

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

P.S. 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).

8/19/2014 Update: In response to this blog post and your activism, Whitewave committed to remove carrageenan in 2015, but has not been completed yet.


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592 responses to “Watch Out For This Carcinogen In Your Organic Food

  1. I cannot find the video – the video links to a porridge recipe – but not video on how to make almond milk – an you check the link? Thanks!

    1. As her link to make almond milk is incorrect I went to youtube and found a great recipe on the 4th video down. Recipe only includes 3 items; 1/2 cup almonds, 3 dates, and (up to 3 cups of) water.

  2. Smith’s store brand of almond milk doesn’t have it listed. So if you have a Kroger or a Smith’s Food & Drug near you try their brand!

  3. I absolutely cannot afford or have the time or resources to produce all my own food. I will avoid what I can but it seems hopeless. I am raising my grandson and I am so sad for him. I try to avoid all the hazards yet it is impossible. 🙁

  4. I started on this organic journey about a year ago and have been on a healthier journey ‘food wise’ since my mom died of cancer 4 years ago. I have been steering clear of Carrageenan for a long while now. I am lucky that I live in small town Ohio close to Amish country and shop their stores often. I also have found some grass fed organic milk. We have even started making our own yogurt… It’s so easy and so much better than store bought… and healthier. I stand behind you all the way and follow you religiously Vani! Thank you so much for all you do !

  5. I bought “unsweetened original hempmilk” by Tempt at Whole Foods and it says Carrageenan free on the front of the box. The vanilla flavored hemp milks do contain Carrageenan though! So stick to unsweetened and read those labels!!

  6. I was surprised to find Trader Joe’s coconut milk on the Cornucopia list. I buy that milk because there is no carrageenan listed in the ingredients. Is this an ingredient that can be eliminated from the ingredients list?

  7. I’ve known about carrageenan for quite awhile thanks to Dr. Russell Blaylock. He is a retired board certified neurosurgeon who now runs a nutritional institute in Mississippi. This quote is from page 196 of his book, “Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life.”
    “Experimentally, carrageenan is used as an agent to induce intense inflammation in experimental animals. A recent study found that when carrageenan was injected in animals along with a cancer-causing chemical, tumors appeared more rapidly and in significantly higher numbers than in control animals injected with carcinogen alone. The same was seen when human breast cancers were implanted in animals along with carrageenan: the combination made the tumors grow faster and spread more widely than in control animals. As a result, carrageenan is classified as a tumor promoter.”

  8. I’ve been on the lookout for carrageenan in my foods for a few months now – I think due to a Food Babe post. My question: Is there a any other name I should look for in the ingredient list that indicates carrageenan? Or is that the only name used?

  9. I have been eating this for years thinking it was ok. There should be a third party ethics committee assigned to the food industry who do not have financial interests in it. Who do we trust? Turns out only ourselves. Grrr

  10. 365 milk doesn’t have it in their milk, I heard that so delicious was suppose to slowly be taking it out of their products this year, it’s not is some of their yogurts so far.

  11. My family has switched tom almond milk to flax milk because of the drought in CA, and how much water almonds take to grow. Anyone else concerned about this as well?

  12. It’s like nutritional wack-a-mole, we just keep finding more and more ways they’re poisoning our food, very dispiriting. Thanks for being out there finding this stuff out for us so we can make informed decisions.

  13. I drank Silk Almond Milk consistently for a few months and had chronic diarrhea. My physician ran $980. worth if parasite tests and all came back negative. A friend asked me about almond consumption, and when I googled the link between almond milk and diarrhea Carageenan was the link. I now make my own almond milk and have never had the problem reoccur.

  14. One of my boys has many dietary allergies, one of which is “dairy”. For this reason, we switched to almond milk. It never felt right. After I started following this blog a few months back, I became more aware of the “other” ingredients in our products and it was frightening how few grocery store items are “safe”. I decided to go back to the Weston A. Price Foundation and follow their recommended guidelines of incorporating only “raw” dairy. My son doesn’t have any reactions to grass-fed raw dairy. (Not surprised). Not sure how great almond milk is regardless of the carrageenan…? Homemade coconut may be a better option if you don’t have that allergy… Thank you so much Vani, for being so proactive!!!

  15. I drink Silk’s Almond milk unsweetened, and carageenan was not listed on their label as an ingredient. However, it is listed on Blue Diamond.

  16. This makes me so furious!!!! How can they get away with this? Are they determined to poison us one way or another! They should have charges filed against them for using these tactics…shame on the FDA for allowing this…”IT NEEDS TO STOP!!!”

  17. Carrageenan is also in Applegate Farms “Natural” sliced turkey deli meat (packaged)! This helps it “stick together and slice easier” and also “slice” up your intestines. I had an intestinal reaction to it and then found this response on their web site that states:

    From Applegate’s web site: Carrageenan, pronounced care-a-GHEE-nan is a substance derived from red seaweed and is commonly used as a thickener or stabilizing agent in foods such as ice cream and yogurt. Applegate started using carrageenan in some of our deli meats because they had a tendency to fall apart when sliced, particularly those made with poultry. This issue is due to the fact that our deli meats are made from whole cuts of meat, without binders that would help the product hold together. We found that a very small amount of carrageenan keeps the meat from falling apart and makes it slice

    Here is where Carrageenan is listed in their turkey meat:

    A product that says “NATURAL” on the label has this in it!! They claim it is “natural” because it comes from an algae plant!

  18. This makes me so furious!!! How can this be allowed? They are determined to poison us one way or another! “SHAME ON THE FDA” for allowing this. We all need to stand together on this matter and let our voices be heard! THIS IS NOT RIGHT!!! It must be stopped! I will not buy anymore organic products that contain this carcinogen!

  19. Is there no SINGLE brand we can trust??!!’ I have no choice but to buy dairy products at the grocery stores. I THOUGHT i could trust Horizon brand but now i see i can’t! This is WAY BEYOND WORDS for me!!

    1. Something you have to learn to accept, in the world we’ve created, is that there is no such thing as safe. It might be better for you to avoid stuff like this – and I hope products like Silk will start turning up without it in the future to make their customers feel better – but when you get down to it, there’s nothing safe about life at all. Partially because we’ve poisoned our planet. Partially because we still don’t yet know of all the dangerous substances that make it into our food one way or the other. And partially because everything, ultimately, dies.

      Those of us who trust in a higher power, would consider this a given. This world is temporary, and passing away. It is simply a conduit bringing us to what comes next. We are seeds, planted in the ground. What will grow from us is not to be seen in this life.

      By all means – try to live healthier, live longer, and provide these things to your family. But do recognize that we live in a fundamentally flawed existence here. All the organic food and bran muffins and whatever else you search for will mean nothing if you’re hit by a semi truck tomorrow. That’s just the way this cruel life works.

      So be aware – but don’t be afraid.

      1. I DO agree with you! I am just SO frustrated! This world IS our temporary home. May we be guided in whatever one believes in to do what is best 🙂 While nothing will be perfectly safe to eat I will continue to do the best I can with what is available. That is all ANY of us can do 🙂

  20. I’m in Canada. Trying to find ice cream that doesn’t have carrageenan in it is a challenge too. I just hope those products that don’t list carrageenan are telling the truth. I really don’t have much faith anymore.

  21. I have chronic migraines and have to be very careful about the ingredients in my food. I get severe 7 day migraines from MSG so I googled “other names for MSG and came up with a triple columned, one page list which included carageenan. I now have to avoid this and ALL of the others on the list. Could they be carcinogens, too?

  22. Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Soymilk does not have it. It is the ONLY boxed non-dairy milk I can find in my area (natural section of grocery store and whole foods specialty stores included) that does not have carageenan.

    Some otherwise healthy pet foods labeled as natural or even organic have it as well. I came across a blog a while back where it was discussed. It’s believed to give pets intestinal issues as well.

    My dietitian recommended I avoid dairy; she said I might be able to tolerate organic soy. She recommended coconut milk but I can’t find any without carageenan.

    Interestingly enough, when I switched away from other boxed milks with carageenan to the Westsoy my IBS symptoms improved dramatically.

    The only things listed as ingredients in the Westsoy is filtered water and organic soybeans. The thickness/texture is fine. I don’t understand why other manufacturers insist on using carageenan in everything. In light of these new studies, it should be banned, but I won’t hold my breath. The FDA is not our friend.

  23. I’m confused about others posting their Silk Almond doesn’t have this as an ingredient. I just checked mine, I bought it in the refrigerated section, it DOES have it!

  24. You are correct. I am so angry. We are just beginning our clean food journey and this makes me wonder if there is really any food that is really safe. There is so much corruption. The only thing that speaks loudly is money!

  25. Thank you so much, since i be reading your post i know to much about wath is good and i always check the labels and i dont buy nothing whit carrageenan i was surpraise too about why organics products use this , i have a cuestion for you please, i been using toms tooth paste for my 6 years old son and in the ingredients list also contein carrageenan it is bad ??

  26. I have been trying to find products that don’t have carragenan for about a year. I have crohn’s disease and carragenan aggrevates the intestinal lining. It is in a lot of stuff.

  27. Make sure you add this to the list of products that contain carrageenan: International Delight Gourmet Coffee Creamers. Disguisting what is being done to us as a whole.

  28. I drink Silk unsweetened Almond Milk and it does NOT contain these ingredients. Just checked.

  29. So Delicious has now eliminated carrageenan from their refrigerated coconut milk. The unsweetened shelf stable at my local Wamart is now free if it too. So Delicious listened to customer concerns and took action.

  30. My wife and I found out the hard way about carrageenan. I was making us smoothies in the morning with organic coconut milk. We both started developing stomach pain and just not feeling well which felt like a celiac reaction. We both have Celiac disease and so I started researching on the web and came across a site only by chance that was talking about carrageenan and it being as bad at gluten. So I started to do a little research when I came across an article that said it was made by red seaweed and seaweed is the gluten of the sea. So of course I quit using “organic coconut milk” and started looking for another which up to this point I have not found another. It is sad that this is allowed in our food especially organic food that we should able to trust!

  31. Food Babe, please watch the the ESOTERIC AGENDA on YouTube…it’s ling but soooo informative and you will see why the government and Monsanto is doing this to us.

  32. I hve known about carageenan for a while and have avoided it as much as possible. We do not do cows milk so have been looking for a suitable substitute for my toddler. We do use raw goats milk but cant get it all the time and I also like to use some of the other milks as well. We avoid unfermented soy and don’t think it’s the best alternative. This is a tough one as I help many moms and want to be able to recommend the best “milk” for their toddlers. And need alternatives for the non dairy folk. Some of the “milks” without carageenan are not organic and I don’t like that. Do you know of an organic non dairy milk without carageenan?? I know that rice dream has a rice milk that doesn’t have it. I was bummed when the sprouted rice milk had it in there! Didn’t realize it was there until after I bought it because I assumed it didn’t since the regular one doesn’t have it. Haven’t found any organic coconut milk without it. 🙁 it’s nice to make our own which I love to do as well but like the enriched ones as a convenient substitute milk for toddler.

    Also wondering what you would have to say about this article that talks about calming down about the carageenan. How there are two different kinds and such. I am curious how we know which ones are in the milk?? Do you know??

  33. The Almond/Coconut Milk Combo by Silk doesn’t have Carrageenan… That one isn’t on any of the lists we’ve found to be “ok” but I’ve checked the label multiple times and it’s not there.

  34. I did not read through all of the comments yet but Stoneybrook and Trader Joe’s organic tube yogurts for children both have this in it. I found one brand at our local Dorothy Lane Market carries a brand that does not have the ingredient talked about in it. I can’t seem to find the name. Unfortunately, it is almost double the price. I am going to attempt to make my own.

  35. Let’s start a campaign to push for the removal! Lead on, sister! We’re with you (obviously)!

  36. I contacted Horizon about carrageenan in their organic half and half and got the following reply which I do not agree with:

    Thank you for your recent email to Horizon Organic®. We appreciate your interest in our products.

    We appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us today. We’d like you to know that we put much thought into the ingredients we use in our products with an emphasis on using high-quality ingredients that provide quality taste, texture, and product usage.
    You may be interested to know that we only use food-grade carrageenan as a natural thickening agent and do not use the degraded carrageenan (poligeenan), which should never be used as a food ingredient. Some people don’t realize there are two different types of carrageenan, but only food-grade carrageenan is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Because of this, there is confusion over the use of carrageenan in foods primarily because “carrageenan” is synonymously used for both the food-grade carrageenan and the poligeenan (denatured carrageenan), which science has shown act very differently in the body.
    While there are studies that suggest carrageenan may have a negative impact on the gastrointestinal tract and may promote cancer tumors, it is important to keep in mind that food-grade carrageenan and poligeenan (degraded carrageenan) act differently in the body and the vast majority of the research has been done in animals with degraded carrageenan which we do not use in our products.
    We use only the highest quality food-grade carrageenan available. We will continue to use only natural and safe ingredients in all of our products.
    We hope this information is helpful so you may continue to enjoy our products. Thanks again for contacting our company.

  37. So what can I eat????? Every other day study comes out saying the opposite of previous study. One day coffee is great next day causes cancer. Is there anything left and btw I don’t know many that will sit and make their own milk be realistic

  38. I have been using SO Delicious unsweetened coconut milk, 32 oz. shelf version. I was very upset to see carrageenan as one of the listed ingredients. Apparently, it was removed because I had two boxes that I purchased from my local grocery store with expiration dates of March, 2017 that DID contain carrageenan and two boxes that I purchased from my local organic store with expiration dates of November, 2017 that DID NOT contain carrageenan.

  39. My 2 year old has trouble gaining weight and his Dr had me giving him carnation essentials instant breakfasts to him after he eats breakfast to help him nutritionally and with weight but knowing what’s in it I have to find some other chocolaty alternative with about the same nutritional value.. Any suggestions please? I might add my son is quite attached to these drinks now.

  40. I avoid xanthum gum, because of health concerns & the name itself.
    Do you have any studies on it?

  41. RATS! I use Weight Watchers Chocolate and French Vanilla smoothies and they both contain Carrageenan!

  42. Just discovered that carrageenan is added to natural toothpastes and canned dog foods. Toothpastes I’ve noticed are Botanique Himalaya, Auromere, and Jason Sea-fresh – flouride free. I have not done a lot of research on dog foods yet, but have noticed it is added to BJs Wholesale brand Earth’s Pride canned food.

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