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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. You’re so awesome! I don’t think I’ve truly read
    through something like that before. So good to find somebody with some unique thoughts on this issue.
    Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!

    1. And you say this badly written piece citing none of the many studies presents unique thoughts and makes the author “so awesome” does it?

      The nutritional value of our food is decreasing annually? WHAT? Are we meant to believe theres an food business conspiracy on a scale that they’re happy to pay extra to remove vitamins etc?

      Eat a balanced diet with less processed food and get on with life without obsessing over claims about supposed toxins made by someone with zero scientific authority or qualification.

      The stress this sort of thing creates will kill you faster than any unproven cumulative effect.

  2. 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.

    1. From the way you wrote this, it seems as though the cashier at Panera was willing to give you the hand out but that you “let it go”, meaning that you chose to forgo receiving the handout.

      1. I asked for the handout, and manager at Panera stated that they did not have any handouts to give me. Then the manager suggested that the hand out information was on the Panera’s web page. I checked, and there was not information about the potato chips, and coffee.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

    2. 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.

      1. Depends on the brand actually. I buy Pureharvest Activated Almond Milk and even the sweetened version with Organic Rice Syrup comes in at a whole 6g of sugar per serving (250ml) compared to milk that is 12.2g per serving (250ml) (most of the time I drink the unsweetened version that contains about 1g per serving)

        It is not all about the protein at all. If you are drinking milk for the protein it is a poor source when you add in the amount of sugar you are getting from it THEN you might as well be sucking on a lollipop with added protein.

        Best source of protein would be steak, chicken etc or if you are vegan get a protein shake from hemp, brown rice or pea with almond milk and you have the perfect balance of good fats and protein with no sugar.

      2. Look out for rice and brown rice syrup and other rice products. Arsenic has been found in rice and especially brown rice and brown rice products.

  5. 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!!

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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?



  9. 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.

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

      1. I have currently found Cashew milk by Silk and it has no listing for Carageenan in ingredients. I’ve also inquired about it to the manufacturers of So Delicious. They informed me that they will be launching new products in the close future w/o it. Should we trust their word?

  11. Hi,

    My name is Jenny and I started following you on Facebook about a year ago. I have 7 different food allergies, so eating/ cooking is quite the challenge. Recently, I have also had to be careful about other products I use, including over the counter medication like Advil, Tylenol, etc. (I had a c-section about a 1.5 years ago). I wanted to ask you more about tooth paste. I can’t use conventional tooth paste because of corn derived products, so I switched to Toms of Maine. However Toms of Maine, Jason’s and Desert Essence all have Carrageenan in their toothpastes. Do you know if the Carrageenan in these products are safe? If not, Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!

    1. We avoid sodium laurel sulphate and Carrageenan and we use Jason brand “Powersmile” toothpaste available at Whole Foods. It is xylitol sweetened. Though I think all varieties of Jason toothpaste avoid this. My kids use Kiss My Face Obsessively Natural Toothpaste with Flouride, also available at whole foods.

    2. We use jack n Jill toothpaste which is made in australia. ingredients sre listed as: xylitol, vegetable glycerin, silica, certified organic strawberry,xanthan gum, certified organic calendula officials extract. That’s the whole ingredient listing.

    3. I use a mix of coconut oil, pink sea salt and a drop of peppermint or birch essential oil from Be Young. Both the coconut oil and sea salt have the essential minerals to help rebuild your teeth.

  12. Oh my goodness I have been battling this problem for years. Although I am a farm girl who was raised on milk, suddenly in mid-2000 I had really bad stomach problems. A doctor told me I may need to look into some new milk additives that may be the cause of my problem. What an education! Once eliminated, I was ok until I unknowingly consumed another product containing carrageenan. Not all products list it even though its there. All they have to say is .. “we use milk”. There are so many products now that have included this awful additive. BUT I just learned today, after being sick all weekend from another carrageenan-poisoned product, that SCIENCE DIET DOG FOOD contains Carrageenan! OMG, I lost a dog 2 years ago with severe digestive problems and now my other precious Schnauzer is going thru liver and heart failure due to large fatty tumors—inflammation—- all over her body compromising internal organ functions! I always thought I was being a good responsible pet owner by feeding them Science Diet. No, no, no!!! This is heart-breaking. Its one thing for me to be sick; absolutely devastating for my pets that count on me to take care of them. Why are they putting this in our food??? I don’t care about the ‘creamy texture’. I do care about nutrition!

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  14. I was so upset to find out that So Delicious uses carrageenan that I wrote to them. I received a long letter immediately in response. They began last year to phase out carrageenan. However she went on to say that there has been a great deal of confusion about it and the type they use is the “undegraded” which she claims has no adverse health effects and does no damage to the body. The other type is hydrolyzed with acid and is called, “degraded.” I wonder what Food Babe has to say about this explanation? In any event, it is being phased out in all of their products.

      1. Thank you very much Pam. I have copied that pertinent info on carrageenan into a letter and sent it back to Sarah Bucholz, Customer Relations Representative. I think she has been fed some very biased industry information as she seemed most sincere and genuine in her thinking about the safety of food-grade carrageenan. it will be interesting if I get a response. Food Babe is incredible and I’ve just pre-ordered her new book on Amazon.

  15. Wow, superb weblog structure! How long have you
    ever been blogging for? you make running a blog look easy.
    The total look of your website is excellent,
    let alone the content!

  16. I am so confused about this ingredient. I have found brands that contain carrageenan but have the Non-GMO project verified labled affixed to the product. Does this mean that variation of carrageenan is okay? Thanks.

  17. Just thought I’d let you know that the link to ‘how to make your own milk substitute’ is a link to “The Perfect Parfait Porridge”.
    There’s no information for the milk substitute recipe.

  18. I’m a pharmacist with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, and my sub-specialty is toxicology. There are a plethora of scientific studies out there regarding carrageenan. Many are over 30 years old. The most recent review articles (published in 2014) all indicate carrageenan is safe as it is being used as a food additive – but I must point out that each of these recent review articles were written by authors either funded by carrageenan manufacturers, or who work for chemical additive companies themselves. There is a LOT of data out there, some studies are more robust than others. Keep in mind that not all scientific data is created equal.

  19. I was wondering if carrageen is safe to consume in facial products? I have an organic face cream and noticed this was one of the ingredients. Everything else looked fine, but I recognised carrageen in the ingredient list as I avoid it in almond milk.

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  21. I thought I was an informed consumer, you know, no processed foods, no fast foods, infrequent eating out etc. etc. but I am embarrassed to say I was not aware of this ingredient. I switched to almond milk a few years ago and did not do my homework, thank you for doing it for me.

  22. I also just checked Silk Almond Coconut milk and it doesn’t have Carrageenan in it. It’s also not the Soy one, I don’t know if that makes a difference. And then of course I went through every dairy product in my refrigerator.

  23. they’re sneaky bastards any which way.. grow it yourself.
    packaging, pesticides, processing chemicals, ingredients they dont have to mention O.o those are all things not on the ingredients list.
    it’s eugenics vs common ppl on a MASSIVE scale.
    have a passion for life and grow it yourself

    1. Your right, additives that get a GRAS rating (Generally Regarded As Safe) do not even have to be mentioned on the ingredient list! When it is an industry wide practice the additives with the GRAS classification then there are ingredients that DO NOT even have to be listed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is SO evil and messed up!

      One example would be ALL bottled products. It is less expensive to clean all machinery with alcohol (they could use boiling hot water which the manufacturer of my brand of essential oils uses to avoid contamination but it takes to long for them to do it this way) and as such there is always some contamination of left over wood alcohol in the products. But since it is not something actually ADDED as an ingredient and it is an industry wide practice the fact that small amounts of wood alcohol are left in the products DO NOT have to be listed!! This may not be a big deal for healthy people, but if your sick …

      Dr Hulda Regehr Clark PHD ND was aware of this and she started checking bottled waters and went on from there… she could not find one single brand of water, fruit juice, etc that was not contaminated with wood alcohols!! These wood alcohols affected her insulin sensitive patients the most. With diabetes becoming more common it is a pretty big issue.

      DOES anyone else anyone know about this? Food Babe?

  24. Dear Food Babe- I brought So Delicious Dairy Free coconut milk beverage 32 fluid oz. It said USDA organic. I photoed and I can not posted it. So, I looked up ingredients to find “carrageenan” there. I could not find carrageenan there. I typed what I copy from ingredients.
    Organic coconut milk ( water, organic coconut cream), calcium phosphate, magnesium phosphate, guar gum, xanthan gum, vitamin A acetate, vitamin D2, L-selenomethionine (Selenium), Zinc oxide, folic acid, vitamin B-12.
    Contains: coconut.
    Is that Soy Delicious Dairy Free coconut milk okay for me to drink?

    What is about Vitamin A ? Is it still related to Retinylpalmitate? That beverage ingredient still show Vitamin A.

    Bottom line is what is the earth matter the companies put too many various junkies /toxic /chemicals into food/drinks. Why? Why couldn’t the companies simple to put better NON- TOXIC ingredients ?
    Please let me know. Thanks.

  25. I’m done worrying about all this. What in the world is left that someone can actually eat without needing to strain , squeeze or grow their own food? Seriously – life is way to short to obsess. Enjoy and be happy. I’m OK w/95% organic.

  26. I use So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk in the box and it does not contain carrageenan, though I know some of other So Delicious products do. Point being – some brands use it in some of their products but not all.

    I was disappointed to see that the new Dream Blends, Coconut, Almond & Chia drink has carrageenan. I understand existing products needing some time to phase it out, but these Dream Blends are new. Can’t figure out why they added it. Clearly it doesn’t need to be in these products at all if some brands are leaving it out.

    Also – thank you for pointing out that we do need to be diligent in protecting organic standards. Thanks Vani!!!!

  27. Sadly carrageenan is in most organic cream (from what I can see) and lots of organic ice cream. Very upsetting and disappointing. Be careful with these two products!

  28. Any toothpaste suggestions. It is in all the natural toothpastes. My kids use Toms for children and it contains carageenan. Unless I make my own I’m not sure what to buy

    1. I like Redmond Earthpaste It is made in Utah from food grade clay, water, salt and essential oils. I like the lemon, but there are several other flavors. You can look at their web site and buy from them, or it is sold in health food stores and I buy from Swansons at a good price.

    2. I use Tooth Suds toothpaste from Heritage Essential Oils. Love it! I also add a drop of their oil blend called Tooth and Gums on top of the toothpaste.

  29. I don’t know if anyone else mentioned it but the Whole Foods brand of organic almond milk does not have carageenan in it. It is the only organic one I could find without it.

  30. Food Science says it’s perfectly fine! Hahaha! That website is run by FMC Corporation and is one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies. Beware of these bogus websites that make it seem okay to ingest these poisons. I research a lot about food because I cook for a living. Thanks Vani for continuing to support all of us who want to eat better!

  31. so what kind of almond milk is good to buy? I make smoothies every morning and serve it to my son instead of reg milk so we go through it pretty fast.

  32. For those wanting to make their own nut milks (I don’t eat rice or soy..but you can make those too)…get a soyapower soy milk maker…you can make just about any kind of milk you’d like…get powdered calcium and add a smidge and you’re set…sweeten, salt, flavor as you, easy, and you know what’s in the soyapower works kinda like a coffee maker..put in the water, put in your “milk” source and it heats/grinds/strains and milk

  33. Whole Foods 365 Organic Almond Milk is one of the few carrageenan free refrigerated almond milks I know of.

  34. what about caracegeen in toothpaste? Tom’s of Maine is supposed to be the natural toothpaste alternative but contains the ingredient.

  35. Whole foods organic almond does not contain this ingredient. My ibs subsided significantly once I made the effort to avoid this ingredient. 🙂 just saying. Thank you for sharing this info

  36. White Wave says it will take two years to remove the carageenan from their Silk products. What do you think about the gellan gum that is used instead?

  37. When I was pregnant a dietician told me that the skim milk that looks and tastes like real milk was safe. I asked what carageenan was and was told it was a safe thickener. I drank that for several years before I wised up.

  38. This infuriates me to see corporate America cares more about the almighty dollar than Americans! “Safe in low doses” is simply crap. A carcinogenic is a carcinogenic no matter the dose & they’re not safe! Who do they think they’re fooling?! Granted some folks are simply unaware/uneducated but the people who are calling these companies out are well aware of flat out lies. Charging MORE money while selling a false sense of safety & health… this is evil!! When I was growing up in the 80’s I was proud to be an American. Since I’ve become more health conscious, I’ve began looking at other countries to move to simply to have peace of mind of what I’m eating. ” The People” used to have a say, why is this happening??!??

  39. In reading through the comments, I didn’t find any mention of the Daisy line of products..their label does not list carrageenan..can anyone comment?

  40. This would be great article if you could tell us what we can eat… I feel like I am suppose to starve! If these are bad… please give other suggestions of what we can replace it with. I cannot make my own milk. Thanks

  41. The SILK brand is the only one I see in the supermarkets that don’t have ‎Carcinogen and are NON GMO with the exception of SILK SOY which does. I love their almond and cashew milk.

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