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We’re taught that if a food has a USDA organic label, then the produce is just about as good as it comes—that the ingredients have been through rigorous testing and are safe for human consumption, or at the very least the product is free from harmful pesticides and genetic engineering. While the USDA certified organic is indeed the way to go, not everything approved under their standards is good for you. On the contrary, some may be very harmful. Such is the case with a substance known as carrageenan.
Carrageenan: A Toxic Food Ingredient
Carrageenan is a substance extracted from seaweed. In food, they are used as gelling and thickening agents, most often in dairy and meat products. You’ll find it in ice cream, cream, desserts, some beers, diet soda, veggie dogs, and processed meats. And although some organic food companies (Eden Foods, Oikos yogurt, Natural by Nature, and more) have sworn off the ingredient, others intend to play on the ignorance of the public and their friends in high places to keep carrageenan around.
In numerous animal studies carrageenan has been found to cause gastrointestinal issues and inflammation, and cancer. In addition, diets high in carrageenan have been linked to the development of intestinal ulcers and other digestive issues. The Cornucopia Institute (a nonprofit which supports food research and “justice for family scale farming”) recommends anyone with inflammatory digestive issues like chronic diarrhea, IBS, or inflammatory bowel disease, to eliminate carrageenan from their diet altogether.
Interestingly, the USDA is aware of the studies of this popular food ingredient, though it maintains a spot on their “safe” list. Why is that? Well, let’s look at who is approving the foods on this list.