The label organic means it should be free of all dangerous pesticides and herbicides and additives. Right? Mostly that is correct. However, over the years big corporations came in on the board and have been adding substances that are questionable. USDA took over the decision making and made NOSB an advisory board. How this will affect the organic food and labeling is to be determined. You can read the National list of Allowed and Prohibited Substances here.
Carrageenan is the additive that is on the list that I will focus on in this post since it is one of the most used, and one of the most controversial for me. Food companies and manufacturers say it is not harmful, but other studies suggest it is. In Europe it has been banned from use in infant formulas. I have not been able to find any studies that are funded by the industry that has been peer-reviewed.
It has been used since 1995 in a long range of products to stabilize food. Among those you should check are ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, soy milk, chocolate milk, bread, jelly, jam, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, soy desserts, soy pudding, sliced turkey, prepared chicken, nutritional drinks, canned soup, broth, microwaveable dinners, frozen pizza, canned pet food, cosmetics, toothpaste and other processed foods.
There are two main different types of carrageenan. Undegraded are used in food and degraded are not. Some animal studies shows that undegraded carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation. One type of carrageenan is listed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen.”
A report from 2002 by US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health says that they can not find any problems with undegraded carrageenan. However, this report from 2007 by WHO says it is inadvisable to use it in infant foods. To make this completely confusing: Here is another report from WHO about a different carrageenan that says it is advisable to give to infants. The reasoning is that those infants that have problems will normally be under supervision by doctors anyway.
Now to the newer studies and reports and why I personally think we should remove carrageenan from our diet. Joanne K. Tobacman made a review of carrageenan in 2001 that destroyed the above reports. Then in 2015 she and two other researchers found that carrageenan inhibits insulin signaling.
Why is this important?
Inflammation in the digestive tract is linked to Alzheimers, Parkinson’s disease and some cancers at the moment. Diabetes has also been connected to it, but we need more studies. The research of the digestive tracts and the link to diseases have only been done for a few years and there is a lot we need to figure out.
After reading all of these studies and articles, my advice is to be careful if you have any problems with your stomach or intestines. Like Sara Baker in this story. And please be careful with kids. I know ice cream is popular, but find brands that are not using carrageenan in their products.